German unemployment hits new record low

Unemployment in Germany hit a new record low in March, official data showed Friday (31 March), as Europe’s largest economy continues to defy economic uncertainty with a strong performance.

The out-of-work figure fell to 5.8 percent this month, the Federal Labour Agency said, beating analysts’ forecasts.

A 0.1-percentage point fall from the level it had held since January placed it at a new all-time low since German reunification in 1990.

“The number of unemployed sank significantly as spring begins to breathe life into the economy,” said the agency’s chief Detlef Scheel in a statement. “Growth in employment is holding steady and demand from companies for new employees remains high.”

In seasonally-adjusted figures, the number of people registered as out of work fell by 30,000 in March.

Germany’s labour market is “remarkably healthy”, IHS Markit economist Timo Klein commented, “having been hurt only very mildly by the eurozone debt crisis during 2012-13 or the political uncertainty during the second half of 2016” arising from Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

Low oil prices, a favourable euro exchange rate and massive cash injections into the economy from the European Central Bank have all helped boost the German economy and create demand for workers, he went on.

Unemployment has been on a downward trend since mid-2009, Klein added, bolstering the consumer spending that has joined traditionally strong exports as one of the main supports of the German economy.

So far, there is little sign of the mass refugee arrivals in 2015 — greeted by some politicians and business leaders as a welcome source of new workers — in the labour market statistics.

But “rising numbers being officially granted asylum, completing qualification measures, and then looking for work” will likely show up in a slightly higher unemployment rate in future years, Klein said — even as a higher absolute number of people are likely to be in work.

Jobs, wages and working conditions are set to be a key battleground in German elections slated for September, with left-wing politicians pushing for higher wages and more unemployment protection.

Right-wingers contend that tough employment law reforms in the mid-2000s built the foundation for Germany’s present economic success and should not be rolled back.

© 2017 AFP

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