Demand for workers remains at a very high level in Germany

Unemployment in Germany held steady at historic lows in February, official data showed Wednesday, as booming demand in Europe’s top economy fuels an ongoing hiring spree.

The jobless rate was unchanged this month at 5.4 percent, the federal labour agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit or BA) said in figures adjusted for seasonal swings, remaining at the lowest level since German reunification in 1990.

The number of people out of work, however, fell more than expected by 22,000, while analysts surveyed by Factset had predicted a drop of 18,000.

“The positive development in the labour market continues in February,” BA chief Detlef Scheele said in a statement.

“Demand for workers remains at a very high level.”

In unadjusted terms — less representative of underlying trends but closely followed in public debate — the unemployment rate fell from 5.8 percent last month to 5.7 percent in February, or 2.55 million people.

The country’s economy has been firing on all cylinders in recent months, boosted by robust appetite for German goods abroad, strong consumer demand at home and supportive policies from the European Central Bank.

German unions have sought to capitalise on the boom times by pushing for huge salary increases in wage talks with employers.

In what could set a benchmark for industries nationwide, the influential IG Metall metalworkers’ union this month won a 4.3-percent wage hike for its 3.9 million workers, as well as the right to more flexible working hours.

Buoyant business and investor confidence surveys continue to paint a rosy picture for Europe’s powerhouse economy even as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tortuous efforts to forge a new coalition government drag on following September’s inconclusive election.

But a consumer confidence survey on Wednesday suggested that the protracted political uncertainty was starting to weigh on shoppers’ minds.

The closely-watched GfK institute’s monthly poll of around 2,000 people predicted a slip in morale of 0.2 points compared with February’s level, to 10.8 points.

“Political upsets around forming a stable and reliable government in Berlin may have unsettled consumers somewhat,” the pollsters commented.


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