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Business

Employment figures become latest victim of winter weather

A chilly winter is being blamed for an increase in joblessness in Germany. Critics warn that Germany's employment market is also seeing an increase in part-time and temporary jobs.

snowy building site

Freezing temperatures hampered work, especially in the building industry

The number of unemployed in Germany in December rose slightly from the month before to just over 3 million people, or 7.2 percent. That's despite strong economic growth in 2010, which led unemployment to fall for 17 months in a row.

"The increase isn't because of any economic reasons. It's mostly due to the early winter weather", Frank-Juergen Weise, the chairman of the Federal Employment Office (BA) said.

Frost and snow in December last year, which made work difficult, especially in the construction industry, has been blamed for the rise in joblessness. In December, 85,000 more people became unemployed bringing the total to just over 3 million.

The employment minister, Ursula von der Leyen, remained optimistic about Germany's continued economic recovery in 2011, despite rising unemployment.

"Despite the hard winter weather, the employment market has proved to be robust," von der Leyen said.

young people looking for jobs

As well as unemployment, part-time work is on the increase

Joblessness was still significantly better compared to the same month in 2009, since when unemployment has fallen by 260,000 people.

"In general the employment market has further benefited from a strong economic recovery," said Weise.

"The year has passed by much better than we expected 12 months ago," he added.

But Weise warned that Germany's economy still wasn't out of the woods.

"Despite this recovery, we think risks still remain in Germany's economic development and dependence on exports," Weise said.

Poorer working conditions

Germany faces other challenges, according to Sabine Zimmermann, the speaker for the opposition Left party on employment issues, such as the increase in part-time jobs.

"2010 was not a good year for the jobless or the employed. The so-called miracle in the employment market is based on a boom in cheap jobs like traineeships and part time work," said Zimmermann.

"The normal working conditions – full time and on a living wage – is increasingly becoming a model of the past," she added.

Zimmermann said the number of people in temporary work had increased by 32 percent compared to the same time last year.

Author: Natalia Dannenberg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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