Germany's labor office said that freezing winter temperatures have contributed to a jump in unemployment in January, ending six consecutive monthly declines in the jobless rate.
The number of unemployed has gone up, but less than feared
Data released on Thursday showed that the number of people out of work in seasonally adjusted terms rose by 6,000 to 3.6 million in January. And in seasonally unadjusted terms, unemployment increased by 342,000 this month.
Germany's unemployment rate now stands at 8.6 percent.
Compared to the same period last year, an additional 129,000 people are out of work. However, January's unemployment jump is still less than the 350,000-rise predicted by economists.
Experts say the rise is partly due to the particulary harsh winter conditions across Germany this year, with bitterly cold temperatures and frequent snowfalls causing increased layoffs.
The head of the labor office, Frank-Juergen Weise, took the unemployment rise in his stride, saying that joblessness had increased in a way that is common in the winter season. He added that the country's labor market continued to be robust.
"The financial crisis has had a smaller impact on the jobs market than previously feared," Weise said.
The new unemployment figures come as the German economy has begun to show signs of a fragile recovery following the deepest recession seen in the postwar era.
Earlier this week, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government upgraded its 2010 economic growth forecast from 1.2 percent to a still modest 1.4 percent.
Big firms cutting jobs
Siemens announced plans to cut up to 2,000 jobs
Coinciding with the release of the new unemployment figures, some employers signaled plans to keep up cost-saving measures by cutting jobs.
Engineering group Siemens announced Thursday that it will be cutting around 2,000 jobs over the next two years. The group's machine tool and industrial services units will be most affected by the cuts.
On Wednesday, mobile phone company Vodafone hinted that it will also reduce its German workforce.
"I believe that we will work with less people," said Vodafone's German head, Friedrich Joussen.
And earlier this week, Germany's IG Metall union warned that as many as 700,000 jobs could be lost in the engineering and auto sector unless the government launched new job protection measures.
Editor: Michael Lawton