Mild winter helps German jobless figures


German unemployment fell more than forecast in December as exports of cars and machinery boomed and one of the mildest winters on record helped support jobs in construction.

The number of people out of work fell a seasonally adjusted 22,000 to 2.89 million, the Federal Labour Agency said today.

Economists forecast a decline of 10,000, the median of 20 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey showed. The adjusted jobless rate dropped to 6.8 per cent.

German companies, working off orders for exports and investment goods, have so far defied a debt crisis the European Commission says risks triggering a recession in the euro area. The Munich-based Ifo institute's measure of business confidence rose unexpectedly in December, and polls show most Germans see their job as secure even as Europe's biggest economy slows.
"Forward-looking indicators including Ifo underscore that the German jobs motor is fundamentally intact," said Johannes Mayr, a senior economist at Bayerische Landesbank in Munich.

With the exception of a 6,000 drop in October, German unemployment has now fallen in every month since June 2009. The average jobless total in unadjusted terms for 2011 squeezed below the 3 million mark at 2.97 million, the lowest since 1991, the head of the agency Frank-Juergen Weise said.

"German unemployment mastered the dual impact of the debt crisis and weakening economic growth in 2011 but these risks remain, accompanying us as we enter the new year," Mr Weise told reporters in Nuremberg.

The jobs market also benefited from what the DWD weather bureau said were the fifth-warmest average national temperatures in December since 1881. That enabled German building companies, which normally shed as many as 150,000 staff most winters, to keep workers on sites, Harald Schroeer, the deputy managing director of the ZDB construction group, said.

Across Germany, 90 per cent of voters said they view their jobs as secure, a poll of 2,000 respondents by Ernst and Young International for Die Welt newspaper published today showed.

Forty per cent said they expect the economy to weaken in 2012.