ZURICH, March 9 (Reuters) - Swiss unemployment is expected to edge lower during 2017 as sectors hurt by a currency shock two years ago recover, the country’s economy ministry forecast on Thursday.
The unemployment rate fell to 3.6 percent in February from 3.7 percent in January, ministry data showed. The seasonally adjusted rate, which takes into account factors like weather conditions, stayed static at 3.3 percent.
The ministry said it expected seasonally adjusted unemployment to decline to 3.2 percent this year, the long-term average for Switzerland.
“We don’t see an abrupt recovery but a gradual, steady reduction during the year,” Boris Zuercher, director of the labour directorate, said in a call with reporters.
The improvement in 2017 had been driven by more hiring in the building industry, helped by a mild winter, as well as more temporary work, Zuercher said.
There had also been a stabilisation in industry, which was particularly badly hit by the strong Swiss franc, which makes Swiss exports to the euro zone more expensive. The value of the franc soared after the central bank scrapped a long-standing cap on the strength of the currency in January 2015.
Half of the year-on-year reduction in jobless figures in February came from an improvement in sectors like watchmaking and machinery, Zuercher said.
“That is definitely good news,” said Zuercher. “We are seeing a stabilisation there. I wouldn’t say it’s a turning point yet, but the figures give hope for the future.” (Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Toby Chopra)