Swedish Statistics Office says jobless figures suspect

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Recent Swedish jobless figures - which that have shown a sharp rise in unemployment and led to calls for the central bank to postpone planned interest rate hikes - are suspect, the country’s Statistics Office said on Thursday.

It said it had identified problems in the way it has gathered data for the unemployment survey, with numbers affected as far back as June 2018.

This had led to a slight overestimation of the numbers of employed people in 2018, and an underestimate since summer 2019.

The problems also led to the unemployment rate being underestimated at the start of the year and then overestimated in more recent months.

Unemployment has risen faster than expected in the last few months, prompting calls for the Riksbank to drop plans for a rate hike late this year or early next.

Several rate-setters had already called into question the reliability of the labor market figures.

On Thursday, the Statistics Office published figures showing headline unemployment unchanged at 7.1 percent and at 7.4 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

These figures were well above the forecast of 6.7% and 7.0% respectively in a Reuters poll.

Other data has painted a picture of a slowing economy. PMI figures show the manufacturing and service sectors contracting, consumer confidence has been falling and growth slowing.

September inflation figures, however, were in line with the Riksbank’s forecast.

While the Riksbank in September stuck with its forecast of a rate hike late this year or early next, analysts see a very small chance of tighter policy before 2020 and many believe rates will be on hold at -0.25% for some time to come.

The central bank will publish its next monetary policy decision on Oct. 24.

Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Toby Chopra