Compared with the economies of other countries, the German economy has emerged from the global financial and economic crisis in relatively good health. Following a 4.7% decline in GDP in 2009, economic growth of 3.6% was already being registered in 2010. While the recovery was almost exclusively export-driven in the first half of the year, domestic demand finally began to pick up too in the second half.
In 2011, despite growing uncertainty in the face of the current debt crisis, the German economy has remained vibrant. Economic growth in the first half of 2011 showed a year-on-year increase of 3.9% after adjustment for inflation.
The main reasons why the global economic crisis has had a fairly slight impact on the German job market can be summed up under three headings: short-time working, reduction of overtime and a cooperative approach to collective bargaining. As a result, most businesses have managed to absorb the temporary decline in turnover and orders without large-scale redundancies.
The German economy was still in the recovery phase in October 2011, although some storm clouds were gathering on the horizon. In spite of a noticeable economic slowdown since the spring of 2011, the labour market continues to show a marked improvement.
The seasonally adjusted employment rate and the number of people in jobs subject to compulsory welfare contributions have experienced vigorous growth. In July, contributory employment showed a year-on-year increase of 2.6% in western Germany and 1.8% in eastern Germany. All of the federal states (Länder) registered employment increases, ranging from 0.6% in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania to 3% in Lower Saxony and Bavaria.
A year-on-year analysis by sector reveals that the overwhelming majority of sectors have been growing. The sharpest increase was in manufacturing (up by 146 000, or 2.3%), followed by business services other than temporary employment services (up by 121 000, or 4.2%), health care and social work (up by 110 000, or 13.5%) and temporary employment services (up by 99 000, or 32.7%). Significant net job losses occurred in the categories of other services (down by 9 000, or 0.8%).
In September, the seasonally adjusted number of jobs grew by a further 7 000, following increases of 6 000 in August and 3 000 in July.
Before seasonal adjustment, the number of job vacancies stood at 501 000 in September. This represents a year-on-year increase of 104 000, or 26%, following the August increase of 100 000, or 25%. A total of 91% of the notified vacancies were to be filled immediately. In western Germany, the number of notified jobs stood at 420 000, representing a year-on-year increase of 26%, while the figure for eastern Germany had risen by 27% to 81 000.
As the autumn revival kicked in, unemployment fell by 149 000 to 2 796 000 from August to September. This corresponds to an unemployment rate of 6.6%. The number of registered unemployed persons fell by 231 000 from September 2010 to September 2011, which amounts to a year-on-year decrease of 8%. The corresponding figure for August was 231 000, or 7%.
The employment situation continues to differ widely between western and eastern Germany.
The number of registered unemployed in western Germany fell by 106 000, or 5%, to 1 918 000 in September, a year-on-year decrease of 181 000, or 9%. Unemployment fell in all of the western Länder, ranging from a 3% reduction in Schleswig-Holstein to 16% in Baden-Württemberg.
In eastern Germany, unemployment showed a year-on-year decrease of 43 000, or 5%, falling to 887 000. Unemployment fell in all of the eastern Länder, Saxony leading the way with a decrease of 11%.
While in the west, with an unemployment rate of 5.7%, the job market is extremely robust, there are still some problems in the eastern part of the Federal Republic, where unemployment stands at 10.4%.
The key to the improvement in the unemployment figures has been the economic recovery, which has led to a sharp increase in the number of jobs subject to welfare deductions, thereby enhancing people’s prospects of escaping unemployment by finding work. The pressure is also being eased by a reduction in the size of the labour pool, which is set to decrease by 69 000 in the course of 2011, according to estimates made by the Institute for Employment Research (Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung).
The largest German companies include Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG, Siemens AG, E.on AG, Deutsche Telekom AG, Deutsche Post World Net, Metro AG, BASF AG, BMW AG, ThyssenKrupp AG and RWE AG.
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