German unemployment slightly lower in March


BERLIN — Unemployment in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, was slightly lower in March thanks to seasonal factors, official data showed Wednesday. Extensive use of a short-term salary support program continued to keep the figures in check amid ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

The unadjusted jobless rate, the headline figure in Germany, slipped to 6.2% from 6.3% in February. Nearly 2.83 million people were registered as unemployed in the nation of 83 million — 77,000 fewer than the previous month and 492,000 more than a year earlier.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the unemployment rate stood at 6% for the third consecutive month, though 8,000 fewer people were out of work than in February, the Federal Labor Agency said.

Restaurants, bars, sports and many leisure facilities have been closed since Nov. 2 and hotels are allowed only to accommodate business travelers. Hairdressers and nonessential shops were able to reopen in March, with virus-related limits. However, infections have risen significantly in recent weeks and restrictions may be reimposed.

Industry has not been directly affected by lockdown measures.

Rises in unemployment in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, and elsewhere on the continent have been moderate by international standards. That is because employers are making heavy use of salary support programs, often referred to as furlough schemes, which allow them to keep employees on the payroll while they await better times.

In Germany, the labor agency pays at least 60% of the salary of employees who are on reduced or zero hours.

The labor agency said it paid support for 2.85 million people in December, the most recent month it has estimates for. That was up from 2.6 million in December but still far below a peak of nearly 6 million last April.

Separately, Germany’s statistics agency said Wednesday that the number of businesses filing for insolvency in 2020 dropped 15.5% from the year before to 15,841. That, however, was largely because, due to the pandemic, authorities suspended rules requiring overly indebted companies to file for insolvency.

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