Berlin: German unemployment unexpectedly fell for the first time in nine months in July, aided by government measures ahead of September’s federal election.
Adjusted for seasonal swings, unemployment fell in July by 6,000 month-on-month, giving a jobless rate of 8.3%, Federal Labour Office data showed on Thursday.
The mid-range forecast in a Reuters poll of 35 economists last week was for a rise of 45,000 of the month.
Major use of shortened working hours has reduced job losses in Germany, where unemployment has risen by only 300,000 since the global financial and economic crisis intensified with the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers last September.
Eckart Tuchtfeld, an economist at Commerzbank, said he was surprised by how well the labour market was holding up.
“The huge use of short-time work is playing an important role. Unemployment will, in our view, become more noticeable than expected in the coming year,” he said.
Statistical changes to how the unemployment figure is calculated also helped restrict the total.
Without these one-off effects, which include stripping out people from the jobless total who are seeking work via private job agencies, there would have been a rise of around 30,000 on the month in July, the Labour Office said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks re-election in September and keeping unemployment in check could prove vital to her bid.
The headline unadjusted unemployment total typically more prominent in German media rose by 52,000 to 3.462 million.
In recent months, economists have been regularly wrong-footed by German jobless data, but there is a general consensus that increased lay-offs are in the pipeline.
“I fear this is only a postponement. Unemployment will rise noticeably after the federal election,” said Thorsten Polleit, an economist at Barclay’s Capital in Frankfurt.
“Companies still expect that the recession is only a temporary downturn and that the drop in production will soon be made up again. But I think it will still take a long time before we can reach the old production levels again.”