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Swiss jobless rate dips

The number of working mothers has increased since 1990

(Keystone)

The jobless rate in Switzerland has fallen for the third consecutive month, but officials warn a bleak economic outlook could see unemployment rise later this year.

The slight dip was because of new figures showing that the number of people working in Switzerland was higher than previously thought.

The government said seasonal hiring also contributed the slight fall in the jobless rate to 3.6 per cent in May from 3.9 per cent in April.

"We have seasonal effects especially in the construction and tourism sectors where there is more possibility to employ people [now] than in winter," Jean-Luc Nordmann, head of the Labour Affairs division at State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), told swissinfo.

Seco, which released the figures on Friday, reported that the number of registered unemployed dipped some 1,000 to 140,609.

The new figures came a day after the government announced that the Swiss economy had slipped into recession in the first quarter.

Slumping capital investment, weak exports and fragile consumer demand were expected to further weaken the economy this year, fuelling fears that the unemployment rate could increase in the second half of the year.

Unemployment rise

"The forecast for the average number of unemployed for the year has been raised by 137,000 to 152,000," said Nordmann.

This would produce an annual jobless average of 3.9 per cent compared with 3.5 per cent, he noted.

"The deterioration could be felt as of June when apprentices and students finish their studies and join the labour market," Nordmann added.

The situation is not expected to improve for another year.

The French-speaking canton of Geneva recorded the highest unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent.

Unemployment in the cantons of Bern, Fribourg, Valais and Neuchâtel dropped slightly.

Although May's jobless rate bucked the downward economic trend, this was due to statistical changes, Nordmann said.

Active Swiss

The Federal Statistics Office on Thursday said the results of the 2000 census had shown the working population was bigger than previously thought. Until now the figure had been based on the 1990 census.

The latest census shows that the working population increased by 7.9 per cent from 1990 to 2000

Some 3.95 million people are now active in the Swiss labour market, up from 3.66 million a decade ago.

Women account for much of the increase, as mothers are increasingly taking up professional employment.

The 2000 survey also shows that the working population has aged slightly, from an average age of 38 in 1990 to 39 in 2000.

However, the length of time spent working is getting shorter, because of longer study periods and early retirement.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swiss jobless rate fell to 3.6 per cent in May from 3.9 per cent in April, with 140,609 unemployed.

Seasonal hiring and new figures of the number of people working in Switzerland contributed to the drop.

The unemployment figures came a day after the government announced that the Swiss economy had slipped into recession in the first quarter.

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