The overall Swiss unemployment rate stood at 3.2% last year, up from 2.9% in 2012. The final month of 2013 continued the upward trend, with nearly 150,000 people out of work in December – an increase of more than 10,000 over November.
The end-of-year increase is a recurring phenomenon, mainly due to seasonal factors, according to Boris Zürcher, head of the labour directorate at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The construction sector, which shuts down for part of the winter, is to a large extent responsible for the hike.
On average, over 136,000 people drew unemployment benefit in 2013, a figure that rises to over 190,000 if all job-seekers are taken into account.
The jobless rate for Swiss nationals was 2.2% and 6% for foreigners.
In German-speaking Switzerland the unemployment rate was 2.2% versus 4.6% for the rest of the country. Geneva was the Swiss canton that suffered the most last year with an average rate of 5.5%, while Obwalden was top of the class with just 0.9%.
The average annual unemployment rate remains close to the point where it cannot drop any lower, added Zürcher in Bern on Friday. He pointed out though that the job market is not in step with economic growth.
Export industries have struggled to be competitive due to the strong franc and have relied on better productivity to improve their bottom line. This helps explain why job numbers only increased 1.3% while gross domestic product rose by 1.9% in 2013, according to SECO.
At the end of December, 149,437 people were receiving unemployment benefit, 7.5% more than the previous month. The biggest increase was in canton Valais, up 1.4 points to 5.6%.
Unemployment in the European Union, of which Switzerland is not a member, is currently above 10%, with over one in four people out of jobs in member states Spain and Greece.
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