German unemployment holds steady at 6.8 percent

BERLIN (AP) — The number of jobless Germans ticked up slightly in August but not enough to alter the unemployment rate, which remained stable at a healthy 6.8 percent — the last employment figures before the country’s general elections.

The Federal Labor Agency said Thursday that 32,000 more people were unemployed in August compared with July, due largely to seasonal factors; the total number of registered jobless was 2.946 million. Summer vacations typically produce a rise as students register as unemployed.

The German economy’s health and the country’s low jobless rate have been a major asset for the conservative Merkel ahead of parliamentary elections on Sept. 22, making it hard for rivals to generate any momentum for change.

Unemployment in Germany remains far lower than many European countries, where some have rates of more than 25 percent. Among the 17 countries that use the euro, the rate is a record 12.1 percent.

The month before Merkel won her second term in 2009, Germany’s jobless rate was 8.3 percent. Ahead of the 2005 elections in which she first won power, it was 11.4 percent — with more than 4.7 million people out of work. Labor market reforms introduced by her center-left predecessor were only starting to improve the picture at the time.

This August, the seasonally adjusted jobless rate also held steady at 6.8 percent for the fourth consecutive month, although a rise of 7,000 in the number of unemployed canceled out a drop by the same amount in July.

Timo Klein, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Frankfurt, noted that key economic indicators have been improving lately and said “this suggests that unemployment will return to a declining tendency during the coming months.”

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