Labor Market Upswing 1.5 Million Jobs in Germany Remain Unfilled

The number of job vacancies has reached a seven-year high in Germany. The country's firms have an estimated 1.5 million unfilled positions, and in some industry sectors there are more available jobs than there are unemployed.

A worker at a steel mill: In the metalworking industry, there are more job vacancies in Germany than unemployed persons.

A worker at a steel mill: In the metalworking industry, there are more job vacancies in Germany than unemployed persons.

Positive developments in the Germany are beginning to have a strong impact on the labor market. According to the mass-circulation Bild newspaper, the Cologne-based IW economic institute is estimating that German firms currently have 1.5 million unfilled vacancies. The organization's labor market expert, Holger Schäfer, said that's the highest level since 2000. In terms of absolute numbers, that would mean there were enough jobs to provide work to all the unemployed in some industry sectors.

Indeed, in some sectors the number of vacant posts actually exceeds the number of unemployed. For example, the metalworkers employer association estimates that there are 224,000 open positions in the metal and electrical industries compared to 221,000 registered unemployed in those sectors. In the IT sector, industry association Bitkom says there 40,000 positions for data processors open compared with just 30,000 unemployed.

IW is predicting that the sustained reinvigoration of the labor market could lead to a reduction of the country's so-called base unemployment for the first time in decades. "The job developments are so positive that fewer people are likely to lose their jobs in a subsequent economic downturn than in the past. It has put the brakes on the rise in base unemployment," Schäfer said.

On Friday, the financial daily Handelsblatt reported that Germany's Federal Labor Office, which is responsible for providing unemployment benefits to the jobless, would report a budget surplus of €900 million for the month of September, the best result recorded this year. Since January, the agency has taken in €3.4 billion more in unemployment insurance payments than it has paid out, Labor Office sources told the paper. The agency has taken in €31.2 billion in payments, with just €27.8 billion in payouts this year.

Alfred Boss, a finance expert at the Global Economic Institute of Kiel, told the paper that if the situation continues unchanged, a surplus of €7 billion is in the cards for 2007. For the current fiscal year, the Labor Office's budget had been calculated based on a forcasted 2007 deficit of €4.27 billion.

The news comes a day after Germany's Federal Labor Agency reported that unemployment had dropped to 3.54 million -- or 8.4 percent -- in Germany, the lowest figure since 1995.



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