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Foreign unemployment fall cuts jobless rate

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Photo: Canton of Geneva
09:23 CEST+02:00
Switzerland's official jobless rate fell in March to 3.4 percent from 3.5 percent in the previous month, driven by a drop in foreign unemployment, according to government figures released on Friday.

The decline marks the first time since June 2014 that the rate has fallen in a further indication that the Swiss economy is so far weathering the rise in the value of the franc, which forecasters have said will cut growth this year.

The percentage of foreigners registered as out of work tumbled to 6.7 percent from seven percent, while the rate for Swiss citizens remained unchanged at 2.3 percent, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said in its monthly report.

The number of unemployed registered in regional job placement offices in March dipped by 4,813 from the previous month to 145,108, Seco said.

But the jobless rate last month remained above the 3.3 percent level in March 2014.

The rate declined or remained the same in all 26 cantons with the canton of Valais recording the biggest fall, from to 4.6 percent from 5.4 percent.

Neuchâtel registered the highest rate (5.7 percent, down from 5.8 percent), just ahead of Geneva (5.6 percent, unchanged).

Obwalden had the lowest rate at one percent, down from 1.1 percent.

Unemployment in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest job market, remained unchanged at 3.6 percent.

The impact of the strong franc may not have yet affected the Swiss job market but observers believe that unless the currency weakens, jobs cuts can be expected.

In January, the Swiss National Bank abandoned a policy of maintaining a euro floor of 1.20 francs and foreign exchange traders immediately bid up the value of the franc.

On Friday, with uncertainty about Greece’s finances lingering, the euro was trading at around 1.04 francs, making life difficult for Swiss exporters selling products into the eurozone, the biggest market for Switzerland’s goods and services.

“Businesses find themselves completely in an adjustment phase,” Yves Flückiger, director of the University of Geneva’s employment observatory told the ATS news agency.

 There are no immediate impacts, even if some companies have announced layoffs.

“But if the euro exchange rate were to remain consistently at 1.04 francs, the situation would become more difficult to deal with,” Flückiger said.

In addition to the currency issue, the Swiss economy is also confronted with uncertainty regarding the future of bilateral agreements with the European Union, following the Swiss vote last year to cap immigration.

That decision is in contravention of the freedom of movement accord that Bern signed with Brussels as part of a package of agreements that the EU said cannot be revoked on a “cherry picking” basis.


 

 

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