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Karlsson: unemployment 'will fall to 4 percent'

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17:31 CET+01:00
Sweden's unemployment rate is likely to fall to about 4.0 percent by the summer from 5.4 percent at the end of last year, Labour Minister Hans Karlsson said on Monday.

"We are on course for four percent at the end of the first half," he was

quoted by TT as saying. "Conditions are in place to reach this level in June," he said.

Karlsson's forecast echoes the ruling Social Democrats' campaign promise

before Prime Minister Göran Persson took office in 1996 to halve Sweden's

unemployment to below four percent.

While Persson achieved this target for a couple years at the beginning of the decade, Sweden's unemployment rate has since climbed back up to what many say are unacceptable rates.

Opposition parties dispute the measure that the government uses for unemployment. The conservative Moderate Party, Sweden's largest opposition party, says that Sweden's real unemployment rate is 17.3 percent.

This, they say is the figure reached by counting the percentage of the working-age population who are neither working nor studying full time, as well as students searching for a full-time job. It also includes people on disability benefits and disability pensions.

Bringing the official jobless rate back down below the four-percent mark is by many viewed as essential if Persson want to win the general election in September.

In December, the most recent month for which data are available, Sweden's official unemployment rate rose to 5.4 percent from 5.0 percent in November.

In December, 244,000 people were out of work, 16,000 more than in December 2004 when the jobless rate was 5.0 percent.

In total, 4,264,000 people held jobs in Sweden in December.

AFP/The Local

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