German unemployment figures delivered a pleasant surprise for the government in March, falling unexpectedly by the biggest margin since June 2008.
It is another sign that Europe’s biggest economy is perking up after a winter when growth ground to a standstill.
Unemployment during the downturn has been largely kept in check by part-time working.
Frank-Jürgen Weise, the head of the Federal Employment Agency said: “We expect that, because of the various cushion effects like part-time work schemes or the cancellation of extra hours or shorter hours, the job situation might become worse – even if the overall economic situation improves.”
Official figures show the jobless total fell by 31,000 in March, reducing the unemployment rate to 8 per cent. But the same statistics office has also said short-term work programmes have pushed up labour costs.
Ursula von der Leyen, the German Employment Minister said: “The alternative to part-time work is always firing and unemployment. That means that part-time is still a positive sign, as employers are still opmistic about the future.”
Some analysts believe it is too early to talk about a recovery in the jobs market, because as part-time work projects are phased out those on the programmes are normally the first to be re-employed, leaving little room for new hiring.