German Unemployment Stagnates | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 05.06.2003
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German Unemployment Stagnates

The number of jobless in Germany is at its highest May figure since reunification, despite the usual spring uptick in employment figures.


Bulletin boards in jobs centers like this one, in Stuttgart, have little to offer unemployed workers these days.

Figures released by Germany's Federal Labor Office on Thursday dampened hopes for a turnaround of the country's ailing labor market. Across Germany, 4.342 million people, or 10.4 percent, were unemployed in May with no clear improvement in sight.

"I rule out an improvement in the employment market this year," Florian Gerster, head of the German Federal Labor Office, said in Nuremberg on Thursday.

Due to the traditionally expected surge in spring employment, when the sun starts to shine again in Europe, there were 152,800 fewer jobless in May than in April, when the unemployment rate was 10.8 percent -- the highest rate since German reunification. Still, the number of unemployed rose by 396,000 from the year-earlier May figure, when the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent.

No change in fundamentals

Gerster described as "good news" the fact that the seasonally adjusted jobless figures also fell slightly, for the first time in months. Seasonally adjusted joblessness for May fell by 4,000 from April.

Still, the labor official admitted that this had nothing to do with improvement in the economy, but was instead the product of a successful employment offensive by job centers.

Florian Gerster

Florian Gerster, head of the Federal Labor Office.

The improvement doesn't represent a change in the economic trend, Gerster (photo) said. Rather, the country is seeing a new "reality and clarity of statistics." As long as the GDP growth rate stays weak, he said, the employment situation can't markedly improve.

Too few training posts

In Germany's western states, labor offices counted 2.71 million jobless, or 8.2 percent. In comparison, the formerly communist eastern states had 1.627 million jobless for an unemployment rate of 18.6 percent.

The outlook for young people entering the job market is also bleak. Some 486,200 people up to 25 years old were registered as unemployed in May, 7 percent more than a year earlier.

"I can't give the all-clear on the subject of training positions," Gerster said, noting that the Federal Labor Office is expecting a shortfall of some 70,000 training positions in the coming year.

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