THE contrasting fortunes of Germany and Spain were highlighted yesterday as German unemployment fell to the lowest level since reunification two decades ago, while the Spanish rate rose to new records.
Germany, which has a population of 81 million, now has fewer than 3 million people on the dole. Spain, which has a population of 46 million, has 4.4 million on the dole, or more than 1.4 million more than Germany.
Germany's Federal Statistics Office said yesterday that unemployment fell to 6.8pc last month from 6.9pc the previous month, as Europe's largest economy continues to create jobs. That's less than half the rate in Ireland or Spain.
"The labour market success story continues -- despite the debt crisis," said Andreas Rees at Unicredit. "Companies are sitting on thick order books, even if new business had eased recently. This is good news for private consumption."
While unemployment has risen to alarming levels in Spain, Ireland and many other European states in the wake of austerity measures and recession, it has consistently fallen in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, over the past year. Germany's ageing population means so many people are retiring that the number of unemployed can decline even if no jobs are created.
However, new figures published on Monday showed the number of people employed in Germany rose 1.3pc in 2011 on the previous year, surpassing the 41 million mark for the first time.
It is a different story in Spain where unemployment rose for a fifth straight month in December and almost half of all young people are out of work as the economy contracts.
The number of people registering for unemployment benefits rose 1,897 to 4.42 million, the Labour Ministry in Madrid said. It surged 59,536 the previous month. Spain's economy contracted in the final months of the year as tourism and exports weakened.