German jobless rate up to 7.4 pct in February
BERLIN (AP) -- Harsh winter weather pushed Germany's jobless rate up to 7.4 percent in February, while unemployment was static in seasonally adjusted terms after three months of declines, official data showed Wednesday.
The unadjusted jobless rate was up from 7.3 percent in January, with 3.11 million people registered as unemployed, the Federal Labor Agency said. The figure was 26,000 higher than in January but 203,000 lower than a year earlier. Hard winter weather typically weighs on activity in sectors such as construction.
The job market in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, nonetheless remains in good condition after two years of strong economic growth.
Its strength contrasts with high unemployment in economically weaker countries that have been hit hard by the eurozone debt crisis. Spain and Greece have jobless rates above 20 percent.
Wednesday's report showed that the seasonally adjusted jobless rate was steady at 6.8 percent in February, with the number of people out of work unchanged.
IHS Global Insight economist Timo Klein noted that the declines between November and January were above average. In each of those months, unemployment figures had improved by more than 20,000 in seasonally adjusted terms.
The positive underlying trend is undented "and there is no near-term end to this trend in sight," he said. Recent surveys have shown steadily rising business and consumer confidence.
Wednesday's figures suggest a more modest improvement in the job market in the months ahead than Germany has seen to date, said Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING in Brussels.
"The strong dynamics of last year will not be repeated this year," he said. "With lower growth and an unemployment rate close to the natural rate, the job miracle should gradually come to an end, entering a period of consolidation."
The German economy shrank by 0.2 percent in the final quarter of last year but is expected to return to modest growth in the current quarter -- avoiding a recession, or two consecutive quarters of contraction.
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