BERLIN (AP) — Germany's jobless rate fell to 6.5 percent in September thanks to a traditional seasonal improvement, official figures showed Thursday.
Still, the underlying trend continued to drift higher, underlining concerns that Europe's biggest economy is slowing down as economic problems around the euro area dent demand for German exports.
The Federal Labor Agency said the unadjusted jobless rate was down 0.3 percentage points compared with August, and that the number of people registered as unemployed was 2.788 million — the lowest overall jobless figure for September since 1991.
The figure was 117,000 lower than the previous month and 7,000 lower than September last year.
When adjusted for seasonal factors the unemployment rate remained steady at 6.8 percent, where it has stood for several months, and the number of jobless rose 9,000 over August, the sixth straight rise.
The end of the summer holidays usually sees a batch of new hirings.
"The weaker economic development is affecting the job market, though overall the job market remains robust," the head of the labor agency, Frank-Juergen Wiese said.
Many analysts think unemployment could edge up over the coming months as the manufacturing sector, the heart of the German economy, struggles in the face of waning demand around Europe.
"Vacancies continue to drop, the share of temporary jobs in total vacancies is increasing and several companies have reintroduced short-time work schemes," said Carsten Brzeski, an economist with ING in Brussels. Such government-subsidized programs, which allow employers to reduce production without cutting their workforce, were credited with keeping unemployment down during the 2008-9 financial crisis.
Germany is still doing far better than many other countries in the 17-nation euro area. Unemployment is above 20 percent in Spain and Greece.