Federal agency with high surplus

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Chancellor Angela Merkel took a similar position in her New Years address.

For a long time, the need for workers seemed unlimited – now there may be signs of a turnaround: In February, the number of vacancies was below the previous month’s level for the first time in almost two years. Economists nevertheless remain optimistic.

The times when the number of vacancies in Germany jumped from record to record have stopped for the time being. Labor demand fell slightly in February. However, it is only slightly below the previous record level from January, announced the Federal Employment Agency (BA).

The federal authority uses its monthly job index BA-X. This last dropped by one point to 209 points compared to January. In the previous year it was still 26 points lower.

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“Demand at a very high level”

“After the lively growth of recent times, the demand for labor is developing somewhat more moderately this month. However, it is still at a very high level,” emphasized the Federal Agency. In view of the continued good economic situation, the Nuremberg recruitment agencies also expect a “high willingness to hire” in the coming months. Many companies, especially in the service sector, still have a great need for new employees.

For February, meanwhile, labor market experts expect at most minor changes on the job market. In a survey, economists at major German banks estimated that the number of unemployed fell by only 5,000 or 6,000 compared to the previous month.

In contrast, some experts expect stagnation or even a slight increase. Then the number of job seekers would be a good 2.9 million. The Federal Agency wants to publish the official unemployment figures this Tuesday (March 1st).

“The job market has remained surprisingly strong,” said Stefan Kipar from Bayerische Landesbank. The large number of immigrants could also be absorbed so far. The job creation is still sufficient to keep unemployment down. In the coming months, however, the situation could change, economists forecast. The risks on the world market and increasing numbers of refugees are not yet noticeable on the German labor market.

However, there is a kind of dichotomy between the service and industrial sectors, said Heiko Peters from Deutsche Bank. Services and domestic demand have so far been the main pillars of the economy and the labor market. “The consumption is running, the German consumer does not let himself be unsettled,” said Kipar. In the industry, however, there is now a clearly subdued mood. That will make the situation more difficult as the year progresses, said Peters.

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Eckart Tuchtfeld from Commerzbank also said that the global economy had become significantly more unstable and that negative impulses were coming from the USA and developing countries.

East German employees worked on average about two weeks longer than West Germans in the past year. This is reported by the daily newspaper “Thüringer Allgemeine”.

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The newspaper writes that the employed in the new federal states worked an average of 1436 hours in 2015. That is 77 hours more than the workers in West Germany, who bring it to 1359 hours. The newspaper relies on data from the Federal and State Employment Accounts working group. According to the figures, the gap between East and West German workers increased by another five hours in 2015. (2014 East: 1427 and West: 1355)

People work the longest in Thuringia

The longest average annual working time per employed person was in Thuringia last year with 1454 hours, followed by Brandenburg (1444) and Saxony-Anhalt (1431). The lowest values ​​for the annual working time were determined for North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland (1335 each).

The main reason for the development are structural differences on the labor market, writes the newspaper. “In East Germany in particular, involuntary part-time work is being increased to full-time jobs because those affected are interested in a higher income,” said the deputy head of the Ifo Institute in Dresden, Joachim Ragnitz, of the newspaper.

Working hours of all kinds are recorded

The data in the employment accounts include all hours actually worked by the self-employed and employees, including civil servants, soldiers, part-time employees and mini-jobbers. It does not record hours that have been paid but not worked, such as vacation, illness or parental leave.

Frank-Jürgen Weise is happy to announce this number: The number of unemployed in Germany fell by 66,000 in March to 2.845 million. That is 87,000 unemployed fewer than a year ago, as announced by the Federal Employment Agency in Nuremberg. The unemployment rate fell by 0.1 points to 6.5 percent.

The head of the Federal Employment Agency said: “The labor market has continued to develop positively overall. Although the seasonally adjusted unemployment has not changed, employment subject to social security has increased again.”

More unemployed in the west, less in the east

Seasonally adjusted, 2.728 million people in Germany were unemployed in March. The number of unemployed, adjusted for seasonal influences, thus remained unchanged compared to February. In western Germany the number rose by a good 2,000, in the east it fell by almost 3,000.

The number of unemployed refugees in Germany continued to rise slightly in March. 123,000 men and women from so-called asylum access countries were registered as unemployed, as Raimund Becker, board member of the Federal Employment Agency, reported. This is 12,000 more than February and 54,000 more than a year ago. 45,000 of them came from Syria.

The refugee unemployment is concentrated in comparatively few regions. According to Becker, these are still moderate numbers. “It will not really go smoothly until the second quarter – in a statistical sense,” he said.

January 1st marks the tenth anniversary of the Hartz IV reform. And the balance sheet is impressive – at least according to the Federal Employment Agency (BA). Hartz IV contributed significantly to the decline in unemployment in Germany. “All in all, the reform is a real success,” said BA boss Frank-Jürgen Weise of the newspaper “Die Welt”.

“In 2005 we had 5.3 million unemployed at times, now we are under three million. That is considerable.” The number of long-term unemployed fell by 700,000 to around one million, added Weise.

However, he conceded that there were also losers and downsides to the reform. “We have more than 200,000 people who have been in Hartz IV without interruption since 2005 and have never worked. That is the dark side of the Hartz IV reform.” Last month, other experts were critical of the Hartz IV balance sheet.

Unemployment will not go down much

At the same time, Weise dampened high expectations of a further decline in unemployment. “The successes won’t be so spectacular now, but they will come.” In the next year the number of unemployed will only decrease by 20,000 to an average of 2.88 million. “But in the next ten years the target must be significantly lower,” emphasized the BA boss. “An annual average of 2.5 million unemployed should be safely accessible.”

Number of Hartz IV recipients is falling (source: dpa)

Weise was convinced that the introduction of the minimum wage on January 1, 2015 would not lead to problems for large companies – there the lower wage groups were often not occupied at all. Problems could arise regionally in the east and in certain service sectors that still pay wages well below the minimum wage today. However, it is possible for these industries to use transition periods for the adjustment.

Federal agency with high surplus

Meanwhile, according to a “Focus” report, the BA will end the current year with a surplus of around one billion euros due to the good situation on the labor market. Weise told the magazine: “We will make more surplus in 2014 than we had expected in our planning.”

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In the summer, the BA had expected, according to “Focus”, a 700 million euro surplus. In November, the forecast was raised to a good 900 million euros.

When the labor market reforms known as Hartz IV were introduced in Germany on January 1, 2005, the concept had already had more than two years of criticism and resistance behind it. Because the inventor Peter Hartz had already presented the then Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) with a media-effective data CD with his suggestions in August 2002. Almost ten years later, the balance sheet is still mixed, depending on where you stand. But who is right? The critics or the supporters of Hartz IV?

The head of the Federal Employment Agency (BA), Frank-Jürgen Weise, recently defended the Hartz IV system again. It is the best program of encouragement and challenge “that we have ever had,” he told the “Bild” newspaper. Otherwise Germany would have 800,000 more unemployed people today. “Of course there were losers, but all in all, Agenda 2010 was a gain for the people.”

Statements like these upset Christoph Butterwegge. The professor of political science at the University of Cologne is one of the most prominent Hartz IV critics. In an interview with t-online.de he says: “I see exactly the opposite. Hartz IV has changed society negatively. Hartz IV is a system of social coldness. It not only puts unemployed people under pressure, who constantly fear sanctions and draconian punishments People in employment are also afraid of getting into Hartz IV themselves. Even employers are put under pressure. “

Butterwegge lacks the evidence that unemployment in Germany really fell because of Hartz IV. “The fact is that the unemployment figures have been embellished. In addition, the quality of work has changed. Namely: precarious employment, temporary work, agency work. Work has just been distributed differently. Many more criteria play a role in unemployment than just Hartz IV.” said the professor, who recently with “Hartz IV and the consequences. On the way to another republic?” published his own record as a book.

IAB sees more light than shadow

Peter Kupka from the IAB does not want to follow Butterwegge entirely here. The researcher at the Labor Agency’s Institute for Employment Research says: “All in all, we are cautiously positive about the results.” The bottom line was that the labor market benefited from the reform, and at Hartz IV there were not only losers financially, but also some winners. The care of the former welfare recipients was previously not as good and comprehensive as it is today.

According to Kupka, however, the fact that Hartz IV reduced unemployment on its own cannot actually be proven: “The positive effect is difficult to quantify.” But there are reliable indicators that show a positive influence. For example, basic unemployment fell for the first time after the introduction of Hartz IV – so unemployed people who would otherwise have remained unemployed even if the economy had developed well also found a job. Nevertheless, there were other developments, such as the wage restraint during the financial crisis, which saved many jobs.

Kupka can only partially confirm that Hartz IV is said to have led to more poorly paid jobs: “The trend towards increasing low-wage employment already existed before the Hartz IV reform was introduced.”

Hartz IV and the effects

A central component of Hartz IV is “promoting and demanding”. Hartz IV recipients are expected to take action themselves to end their need for help. The job centers ensure that the unemployed can continue their education and thus improve their chances on the job market.

Nevertheless, the reference to Hartz IV hits many on the mind. The duration of the still quite adequate unemployment benefit I was shortened to one year, after which it goes straight down to social assistance level – often with an impact on the housing situation and assets. If the apartment is too big or the savings account is too thick, the applicant must move and live on his own money before the state steps in.

In this context, the IAB research institute found out just this week that unemployed Hartz IV recipients feel less integrated into society. Accordingly, less than one in four is a member of a club, union or other organization. This is every second person in employment. Hartz IV top-ups, whose earned income is insufficient to support themselves, are in the middle between the two groups.

Hartz IV recipients also rate their health worse than the working population, as a second IAB study shows. Four out of ten stated in a survey that their health was severely restricted. Topping up is a little better – four-fifths of the employed feel healthy.

One could argue that it is precisely these complaints that are the reason for the long unemployment. That may be true of many. After all, around 40 percent of those in need have a recognized disability or have applied for recognition.