BERLIN (Reuters) – German unemployment fell unexpectedly in January, data showed on Friday, signalling that government incentives for companies to keep workers on their payroll during the coronavirus pandemic were shielding the labour market in Europe’s biggest economy.
The labour office said the number of people out of work in Europe’s largest economy fell by 41,000 in seasonally adjusted terms to 2.729 million. A Reuters poll had forecast a rise of 6,000.
“The labour market remains in a robust condition in January,” Federal Labour Agency head Detlef Scheele said in a statement. “But the measures in place to tame the coronavirus pandemic are leaving a mark.”
Germany has been in lockdown since mid-December as it battles a second wave of the virus.
The unemployment rate remained unchanged compared with the previous month at 6.0%.
The labour agency said some 2.26 million people were on shortened working hours in November under the government’s Kurzarbeit scheme designed to avoid mass layoffs during a downturns by offering companies subsidies to keep workers on the payroll.
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa and Joseph Nasr; Editing by Maria Sheahan)