Swedish government: our job forecast is right

The Swedish government has been accused of playing with numbers in the run up to the election on September 17th.

The National Institute for Economic Research says the government’s claim that unemployment will drop to 4 percent in the autumn doesn’t add up, while an official tally of the number of people living on state benefit has simply been stopped.

Employment is one of the key election issues and both Göran Persson and finance minister Pär Nuder have promised that the 4 percent target will be reached in the autumn.

“This is a target which we will reach during the autumn and our description of the reality is the right one,” said industry minister Thomas Östros last week.

“We’ll go under 4 percent and will be heading towards 3 percent.”

Not as far as Ingemar Hansson, the director general of the state-run National Institute for Economic Research is concerned.

“In our forecast for seasonally adjusted open unemployment, we’ll see successive falls in the autumn to just under 5 percent,” he said.

“But obviously you could get down to 4 percent if, for example, you made 50,000 unemployed people take early retirement. Then perhaps you could reach the target.”

Nor does the Swedish Riksbank’s prognosis support that of the government: it anticipates a distant 5.2 percent in December.

There is just as much confusion over the number of people living on state benefits.

Figures due to be published in August should have shown how many people were supported through unemployment benefit, labour schemes, sick pay and social benefits in 2005. But the government decided not to ask Statistics Sweden, which calculated the figure for 2000 to 2004, to come up with the total for last year.

According to the government, it was too expensive.

“In 1999 Statistics Sweden was given the job of calculating these totals between 2000 and 2004. For that they got 500,000 kronor,” said Joakim Hussénius at the Ministry of Finance.

But when that money ran out, Statistics Sweden wanted another 100,000 kronor to do the same calculation for 2005. Instead, the government said that it would pay 7,000 kronor for the number of people on social benefits and would calculate the rest itself.

“And that total will be presented in the autumn budget proposal. Furthermore, the government presented a forecast for the number of people on economic support last winter,” said Hussénius.