At the end of December 130,000 unemployed were registered in Switzerland, or 3.6 per cent of the workforce.This content was published on January 8, 2003 - 11:36
The unemployment rate now stands at its highest level for four years.
Figures released by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) showed that over the year 2002 as a whole unemployment averaged 2.8 per cent, up from a ten-year low of 1.9 per cent the year before.
The number of registered unemployed in Switzerland was 50 per cent higher than in 2001.
"The figures are in line with our expectations," Seco official Jean-Luc Nordmann said on Wednesday.
In December the jobless rate rose to 3.6 per cent from 3.3 per cent the month before and reached the highest level since June 1998.
The December increase reflected seasonal norms, with a slowdown in construction activity during the winter months, Nordmann said.
But difficult market conditions also had a negative effect on the jobless total and contributed in December to a drop in the number of positions to be filled.
"The world economy is in a bad way, and as every second franc in Switzerland is earned through exports, Switzerland is very dependent on the world economy," Nordmann told swissinfo.
The Swiss federation of trade unions said it was not surprised by the jobless figures, which reflected the current "economic stagnation".
It called on the government to adopt measures to address the situation and to prepare for "the worst-case scenario" of Switzerland entering recession.
Worst still to come
Nordmann said unemployment was expected to increase further, with the number of jobless peaking at 140,000 in January before seasonal changes came into effect.
Worst affected was canton Geneva, which recorded a jobless rate of 6.2 per cent in December.
Geneva also had the highest annual unemployment average of all the Swiss cantons - 5.4 per cent.
Cantons Zurich, Ticino, Jura, Neuchatel, Zug and Vaud all recorded unemployment rates of over four per cent in December.
Only one canton - Graubünden, saw its jobless rate fall, although only by 0.1 per cent.
Nordmann said the authorities had already taken action to try to redress the situation.
"We have already reduced the premium which has to be paid for unemployment insurance from three per cent to 2.5 per cent," he told swissinfo. "That means SFr1 billion for this year. And next year we will do the same again."
Despite the increase in unemployment, there were still grounds for optimism, Nordmann said.
"There will certainly be an upturn," he said, but conceded that this might come later than expected.
For 2003 he forecast an average jobless rate of 130,000, or 3.6 per cent.
And he said a major improvement in the jobless figures could only be achieved with stronger economic growth.
"We will have GDP of one per cent this year and we need two per cent to have remarkable growth," Nordmann said.
In December 130,000 people were registered unemployed in Switzerland - 3.6 per cent of the workforce.
In November 2002 3.3 per cent were jobless.
The average annual jobless rate was 2.8 per cent in 2002.
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs expects unemployment to peak at 140,000 in January.
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