The latest German unemployment figures provide little comfort for the government of Gerhard Schroeder.
The Federal Labour Office report for March shows a rise for the seasonally adjusted figures and just a slight fall for the unadjusted total, which is the more commonly used benchmark in Germany.
The seasonally adjusted total was up for the fourteenth straight month.
It increased by 92,000, pushing up the jobless rate to 12% from 11.7% in February. The Labour Office said cold weather was partly to blame with fewer people being hired for outdoor work.
The jobless figure climbed above five million for the first time in January when changes to the benefits system led to more people being registered as unemployed.
Economics and labour minister Wolfgang Clement said: “I hope, despite the extra 380,000 welfare recipients, we will get below the five million mark this spring and that we will not reach it again in the future.”
The figures show unemployment in March in western Germany, the country’s economic hub, was 10.3% and the rate was twice as high in the former communist east, at 20.6%.
The jobless total has become a major political issue with Chancellor Schroeder’s Social Democratic party facing a key state election in late May.