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Swiss Unemployment Continues to Fall

The number of registered unemployed in Switzerland dropped by 9% in May 2018 to a rate of 2.4%, down from 2.7% in April, according to a report by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The rate in May 2018 was 22% lower than in May 2017.


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Switzerland’s unemployment hasn’t been this low since 2008.

In March 2018, SECO changed the way it calculates unemployment and estimates this change reduced the rate of registered unemployment by 0.1%.

The lowest rates of registered unemployment were among 15-24 year olds (2.0%) and those 50 and over (2.4%). Among those aged 25-49 the rate was 2.6%.

As usual rates were above average in French- and Italian-speaking Switzerland (3.3%) and lower in German-speaking Switzerland (2.1%).

And, foreigners (4.3%) were much more likely to be registered out of work than Swiss (1.8%). At the same time, foreigners have a much higher labour force participation rate than Swiss – at the end of 2016, 63.8% of foreigners were active compared to 56.7% of Swiss, a difference of 7.1%.

It is important to note that the way SECO calculates unemployment is incomplete. It defines unemployed as those officially registered as unemployed who still qualify for unemployment benefits. Those who don’t, usually because they have been out of work for a long time, are excluded from SECO’s figures.

A more more comprehensive calculation, which includes all those looking for work, calculated by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is typically far higher than the SECO rate of registered unemployed. Swiss unemployment using the ILO’s unemployment definition was 5.2% in March 2018, while SECO’s rate was 2.9%, a 2.3% difference – see chart above.

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