Swiss job market shows first signs of Covid-19 pandemic

The empty high street in the Swiss tourist destination of Gruyères on March 27 Keystone

The Swiss labour market in March felt the first effects of coronavirus. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) put the unemployment rate at 2.9%, up from 2.5% in February. 

This content was published on April 7, 2020 - 08:59

Adjusted for seasonal factors, the rate was 2.8%, SECO said on TuesdayExternal link. Economists interviewed by news agency AWP had expected such figures. 

At the end of March a total of 135,624 people were registered as unemployed with regional employment centres. This was 17,802 more than in the previous month. 

The latest figures on short-time working had also been eagerly awaited, but currently only the data for January are available. According to SECO, 3,717 people were affected in January, an increase of 13% over the previous month of December. 

The number of companies affected was 178, some 26 more than in December. The number of working hours lost is reported at 189,157 – 34,622 (22.4%) more than in December. 

Meanwhile, at the end of March the head of the SECO labour unit, Boris Zürcher, said applications for short-time work were rocketing: 570,000 applications from 42,000 companies. This corresponds to about 11% of the workforce. Just one day later Economics Minister Guy Parmelin put the figures at 51,000 companies and around 656,000 employees. 

"I believe unemployment will clearly increase," Zürcher said. "The longer this situation lasts, the harder it is to get out. If it continues like this for another three or four months, it will also affect solvent companies."

The unemployment rate among foreigners rose in March to 5.2% (up from 4.6%) and among Swiss nationals to 2.1% (1.8%).

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