German unemployment falls below 3 million: minister

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The number of unemployed workers in Germany fell below three million this month, with the politically important figure finally breaching the bar to rest at 2.945 million, Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

Berlin currently forecasts an average of 2.9 million unemployed workers in 2011, compared with 3.2 million this year.

Earlier this year, economists and other observers had forecast a rise in the jobless rate, with some estimating it could soar as high as four to five million people.

But after being slammed by the global economic crisis, Germany's export-oriented economy has bounced back thanks in large part to demand from emerging countries for high-quality German goods.

That has allowed companies to begin hiring again, and a new problem for many German firms is the lack of skilled workers, especially in technology-intensive sectors.

But the steady improvement in unemployment has also begun to feed into a virtuous circle, with consumer confidence rising and spurring a subtle pick-up in domestic demand.

That should make Germany less vulnerable to an expected easing in global economic growth, experts say.

In October and November 2008, the number of unemployed in Europe's biggest economy had briefly dipped below the widely-cited three million level before heading higher as a result of the global economic crisis.

The last time the number remained below three million for any length of time was in 1992, a couple of years after the country was reunified.

© 2010 AFP

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