New figures show slowdown in Sweden’s rising unemployment

The pace of layoff announcements has leveled off, signaling a clear break with the country’s recent trend of rapidly increasing joblessness, according to the National Public Employment Agency (Arbetsförmedlingen).

At the end of August, 261,000 people – or 5.4 percent of the workforce – were registered as unemployed with the agency.

While the figure represents an increase of 113,000 people, 2.4 percent of the workforce, since August 2008, other figures show that there were only 1,000 more layoff announcements in August 2009 than during the same month a year ago.

And the August total of 5,000 redundancy notices is a significant drop from the monthly tallies of nearly 20,000 announcements which were common during some months last autumn.

“We’re seeing a clear improvement now, even if the number of layoff announcements in August increased,” said the employment agency’s deputy head Lena Liljebäck, to the TT news agency.

“There are still layoffs in manufacturing, but at a much slower pace than previously.”

Unemployment increased across all age groups. Among workers ages 18 to 24-years old, there was a total of 59,000 registered as unemployed in August, an increase of 27,000 from a year ago.

“Increasing youth unemployment is a real disappointment,” said Liljebäck.

Sweden’s rising unemployment led to a surge in people returning to school to gain additional credentials and qualifications.

“There are twice as many this year compared to last year who are leaving the Arbetsförmedlingen in order to begin their studies. Getting more education always makes it easier to get a job,” said Liljebäck.

And while the recent tide of redundancies appears to be receding somewhat, concerns about the future remain.

“We’re going to see a number of very difficult years in the labour market,” said Liljebäck.

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