German unemployment soars to record 4 million: Jobless levels hit post-war peak of nearly 9% in the west and 17% in the east

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The Independent Online
GERMAN unemployment reached a post-war record of 4.03 million in January, the highest jobless total since the collapse of the Weimar Republic in 1933.

The unadjusted total, up sharply from 3.69 million in December, comprised unemployment of 2.74 million in western Germany and 1.29 million in eastern Germany. After adjustment for seasonal influences, western German unemployment rose 200,000 to 2.52 million.

The Federal Labour Office said the western German figure pushed up the unemployment rate by 0.7 points to 8.8 per cent. The jobless rate in eastern Germany jumped 1.6 points to 17 per cent.

The increase reflected the continued toll of western Germany's worst post-war recession, normal seasonal factors, restructuring by industry entailing layoffs and mothballed plants and declining numbers on job-creation programmes in eastern Germany.

'We should not conclude from this that the negative tendencies are getting worse,' Bernhard Jagoda, the Labour Office president, said.

January is traditionally a bad month for unemployment as many redundancy notices take effect from the end of the previous quarter and winter weather often hampers work in the construction industry.

The DAG white-collar union said four million unemployed represented 'an alarm signal' for German society.

The opposition Social Democrats called the figures a disaster, showing Chancellor Helmut Kohl's claim that the recession was over to be wishful thinking in an election year.

Gunter Rexrodt, the economics minister, said he had predicted that the jobless total would exceed four million and continue to rise this year even if the economy recovered - 'one of the greatest challenges for our society and state since the Federal Republic was established'.

'We are dealing not just with a normal economic crisis but with a deep structural crisis. We must take the rocky path of structural renewal.'

His comments stepped up government demands that German unions and employers agree more flexible working practices.