German joblessness unexpectedly rises for the first time in eight months, adding to strains Europe’s largest economy is facing due to the protracted coronavirus lockdowns.
The rise of 9,000 put the total number of unemployed people at 2.75 million and the rate at 6%, according to the Federal Labour Agency. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a drop of 10,000.
The blow is being cushioned by government subsidies to enable companies to hold on to staff. More than 2 million workers benefited from a generous furlough program in January, according to the latest estimates by the Ifo Institute — a number that is likely to have risen since.
The country has been in a lockdown since the middle of November, with most retail stores, restaurants, gyms and cultural venues shut to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet on Wednesday with state leaders to discuss further steps, which may include an extension of the curbs until the end of the month.
That means the labour market will continue to face pressure in the coming weeks, even though German employment has been more resilient than in other European countries.
Spanish joblessness increased by more than 44,000 in February, according to a separate report. Euro-area data are due to be released by Eurostat, with the rate forecast to have stayed at 8.3% in January.