Surprise jump in unemployment

Sweden’s unemployment rate rose to 8 percent in February , much to the surprise of many analysts, who didn’t expect the economic crisis would hit the country’s labour market so hard and so fast.

According to new figures published Thursday by Statistics Sweden (SCB), 387,000 people, or 8.0 percent of Sweden’s workforce, were out of a job in February.

The corresponding figure for February last year was 6.1 percent.

“It was a very high figure and a real surprise. We had expected 7.2 percent for this month, and it turned out to be 8.0 percent,” said Olle Holmgren, an economist with the SEB bank, to the TT news agency.

“The labour market seems to be declining faster than we expected and we had thought we had gone pretty far when made our forecasts. We predicted joblessness to hit nearly 10 percent by the end of the year.”

The number of people employed in February topped out at 4,460,000, which is 76,000 fewer people than the same period last year.

Unemployment increased most among young people, with the jobless rate among 15 to 24-year-olds shooting up to 24.8 percent from 19.0 percent last year.