North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is the most populous of all the federal states and has the strongest economy. The increasingly critical economic situation is already reflected in the labour market data. More job cuts are being announced, short-time working is on the rise and the demand for labour is falling. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate declined once again in November 2008, from 8.7% in the previous year to 8%. Employment in jobs entailing compulsory social insurance increased slightly.
Of the 18.028 million or so inhabitants, 1.914 million have foreign nationality. Most of these foreign nationals originate from Turkey, the former Yugoslavia, Italy and Greece.
Approximately 5.903 million people are in jobs liable for social insurance contributions. 712 570 people were out of work in November 2008. A quarter of the unemployed are aged over 50; 43.2% are long-term unemployed.
Most employees work in the service sector. NRW is an important industrial region and the number-one region for energy in Europe.
The principal segments in this sector are steel production, chemicals and mechanical engineering. The industries of the future are logistics, media and communications, life sciences and renewable energy.
Famous firms based here include Lanxess, Degussa, Henkel, Cognis, ThyssenKrupp, GEA Group, SMS Demag, Benteler, Hydro Aluminium, RWE, Eon, Ruhrgas and RAG. (c.f. http://ec.europa.eu)