Jobless rate falls for first time in nine months

Switzerland’s unemployment rate dropped in March for the first time in nine months to 3.3 percent from 3.5 percent the previous month as more foreigners found jobs, government figures released on Tuesday show.

Jobless rate falls for first time in nine months
Cantons marked in red have the highest jobless rates (over four percent). Graphic: Seco

The number of people registered for jobless benefits fell by 6,413 to 142,846, although the unemployment rate for last month remained 2.8 percent higher than in March 2013, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said.

The monthly jobs report showed the percentage of foreigners out of work tumbled to 6.5 percent from 6.9 percent, while the unemployment rate of Swiss citizens edged downward to 2.3 percent from 2.4 percent.

Among the bright signs for job seekers was a rise in vacancies, with 14,741 positions unfilled in March, an increase of 699 from February.

The unemployment rate either dropped or remained unchanged in all 26 cantons.

Geneva recorded the highest jobless rate at 5.6 percent, unchanged from the previous month, while Obwalden and Nidwalden (one percent, down from 1.1 percent) shared honours for the lowest rate.

Neuchâtel, which in February had the highest unemployment rate, registered a drop to 5.4 from 5.7 percent.

The largest percentage declines were chalked up in Ticino (4.5 percent, down from 5.1 percent) and Valais (4.4 percent, down from five percent).

The rate in Switzerland’s largest job market, Zurich, dropped to 3.4 from 3.5 percent.

Forecasters have predicted that the country’s unemployment will continue to drop this year as the economy grows at a faster clip than in 2013.

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Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

The Covid pandemic hit Switzerland hard, although the country's largest city has rebounded strongly.

Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

Measures imposed due to the Covid pandemic, which began in earnest in February 2020, shuttered businesses across the country and pushed many people out of work. 

When most notable Covid rules were relaxed in Switzerland in mid-February 2022, the economic recovery – highlighted by a strong job market – began in earnest in 2021. 

READ MORE: How the Swiss job market rebounded from the Covid pandemic

Nowhere was this more evident than Zurich, Switzerland’s largest and most economically powerful city. 

How did Zurich rebound from the Covid pandemic in comparison to the rest of the country?

Even though Zurich, along with other large Swiss cities like Geneva, Basel, Bern and Lausanne, have been hit hard by the pandemic from the employment perspective, Zurich’s labour market is now growing faster than in other urban centres.

One of the reasons for this upward trend is that young, well-educated foreigners are coming back.

In the first nine months of 2021, the city’s population grew significantly.

In September alone, it recorded 2,200 additional residents.

This is mainly due to people with a B residence permit, according to Klemens Rosin, methodologist at Zurich’s Statistics Office.

During the crisis, far fewer of them left the city. “This group is made up of well-educated, younger and mobile foreigners who have made a significant contribution to Zurich’s growth”, Rosin said.

Zurich’s employment market is expect to grow even further.

READ MORE: How hard is finding work in Zurich without speaking German?

That’s because in the coming years, many Zurich workers will retire — an estimated  210,000 by year 2050 — creating more job opportunities for younger employees.

In fact, according to a study commissioned by the canton in 2021, if Zurich’s economy is to continue to flourish, it will need around 1.37 million workers by mid-century.

If these vacancies will not be filled, then income, tax revenue and the financing of social security programs will be impacted.

READ MORE: Have your say: What’s the best way to find a job in Zurich

While it is difficult to predict what jobs will be most in demand in 2050 — what new technologies will emerge in the meantime — right now and in medium term, IT workers will be especially needed, experts say, because businesses will continue to to digitalise and automate.

Lower skilled jobs will also be in higher demand, including hospitality, retail and transport. 

With hundreds of thousands of vacancies to fill, people with the permission to work in Switzerland are likely to be flush with offers – particularly skilled workers with recognised qualifications. 

READ MORE: Why finding a job in Switzerland is set to become easier