Sweden reaches lowest unemployment rate in a decade

Sweden reaches lowest unemployment rate in a decade
A woman searches for jobs online at an Arbetsförmedlingen office. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
Sweden’s unemployment rate has reached its lowest figure in ten years, data from the Public Employment Service shows.

In December, the unemployment rate in Sweden was just seven percent, according to figures from the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen).

That's a drop of 0.5 percentage points compared with the same month the previous year, and means that a total of 344,000 people were registered with the agency, down from 366,000 in December 2017.

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“The labour market has been very strong during 2018, we reached the lowest level of unemployment since 2008,” said Annika Sundén, head of analysis at the agency.

The rate has fallen both among native Swedes and those born abroad, although the lowest level of unemployment is recorded among native Swedes, at 3.7 percent compared to four percent in December 2017.

And despite recent reports that the country is heading for an economic slowdown, Sundén said she expected the unemployment rate to keep falling, at least for the next few years.

“We think that the demand for labour is going to continue to increase, at a slower pace, in 2019 and 2010,” she said. 

The group who have most difficulty in entering or returning to work are long-term unemployed people with a low level of education, Sundén said, who make up three quarters of those registered with the Public Employment Service. 

“They will need a mix of training and other measures, such as subsidized positions,” she explained.

A proposed government deal between four of Sweden's parties includes the aim of reforming the Public Employment Service so that it would be responsible for carrying out checks on job-seekers while other agencies and organizations worked to support job-seekers and help them find work.

Sundén said it was too early to say what kind of impact this might have.

“However it turns out, there will always be people who need support. If you look at the research, the result is roughly the same for private and public organizations. The groups which have trouble finding steady employment need resources, regardless of how the politicians decide to organize these,” she said.

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