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German jobless rate hits record low in May

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German jobless rate hits record low in May
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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s unemployment rate hit a record low in May as jobless numbers fell, data showed, reflecting the robustness of a labour market that has become a key driver of a consumer-led economic upswing.

The seasonally adjusted jobless total fell by 11,000 – 1,000 more than forecast in a Reuters poll – to 2.358 million, the Federal Labour Office said on Wednesday.

That took the unemployment rate down to 5.2 percent, the Office said, the lowest since the country reunified in 1990.

“Unemployment and underemployment have decreased again, employment within the scope of the social security system keeps rising and labour demand is still high,” Labour Office head Detlef Scheele said in a statement.

“The upward trend on the labour market is continuing, albeit at a slower pace than in the winter months.”

Labour Minister Hubertus Heil said he wanted to cut unemployment insurance contributions by 0.3 percentage points to 2.7 percent of gross wages from 2019. That would amount to total annual savings of around 3.5 billion euros for employees and employers, he said.

The majority of the 800,000 job vacancies registered in May were permanent, full-time jobs subject to social security contributions. Workers were mainly sought in construction, transportation and warehousing as well as social and health care.

The rock-solid labour market is likely to further boost consumer confidence and household spending in Europe’s biggest economy, which has seen domestic demand overtake exports as its main growth driver in recent years.

KfW economist Joerg Zeuner said German companies had become more cautious due to trade frictions with the United States.

“However, an end to the upswing is not yet in sight. Companies in all sectors of the economy are still hiring,” he added.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber and Holger Hansen; Editing by Maria Sheahan and John Stonestreet)

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