Unemployment in Germany rose to its highest level in seven years in December, partly due to changes in the way that the jobless are categorised and benefits are paid, but also as Europe’s largest economy seems too weak to create work. The December report showed the total of people seeking jobs reached 4.46 million – not adjusted for seasonal factors. That is 10.8%, an increase from 10.3% in November.The head of the Federal Labour Office, Frank-Juergen Weise, explained there has been no real improvement over the last twelve months: “The figures are still high given the lack of economic stimulus in Germany in the last year. The result of that is a jobless level that is essentially unchanged, it was high in 2003 and it was high again in 2004.” The efforts by Germany’s government to spur more economic growth including changing the country’s expensive state welfare benefits system have yet to bring results. Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement, visiting a Labour Office building in Cologne, said: “The big change has not arrived yet, the social welfare reforms have just started, so you can’t expect immediate results. The latest figures reflect not just the state of the economy, but also those welfare changes.” Clement admits that the figures will not fall much this year. January is likely to be even worse – analysts predict around five million unemployed – as more social welfare recipients change their status and register as unemployed.