German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union, CDU, smiles during a press statement after Merkel's conservatives and Germany's main center-left party reached a deal to form a new coalition government after a final session of talks that dragged on for 24 hours in the headquarters of the Christian Democratic Union in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop)
INTERNATIONAL - Germany's jobless total fell more than expected in February and employment hit a record high in January, data showed yesterday, underlining the strength of a labour market that is fuelling a consumption-led upswing in Europe's biggest economy.

Data published by the Federal Labour Office showed the seasonally adjusted jobless total dropped by 22000 to 2.393million.

That was way more than the predicted drop of 15000 forecast. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.4percent in February, the lowest level since German reunification in 1990.

“The good labour market developments are continuing in February,” said Detlef Scheele, head of the Labour Office. He added that employment within the scope of social insurance rose further and firms continued to look for more staff.

The solid labour market is likely to continue supporting a consumption-led growth cycle in Germany where a rebound in exports and increased company investments have recently kicked in as additional growth drivers.

In a further positive sign, seasonally adjusted employment as measured by the International Labour Organisation climbed to a record 44.54million in January, separate data released by the Federal Statistics Office showed.

Household spending has become the main source of Germany’s economic expansion as record-high employment, increased job security, above-inflation pay hikes and low borrowing costs all help open shoppers’ wallets.

However, a sentiment survey by the GfK institute also showed yesterday that the cheerful mood among shoppers darkened slightly heading into March, suggesting political concerns could be weighing on household spending.

GfK’s consumer sentiment indicator, which is based on a survey of around 2000 Germans, slipped to 10.8points going into March from 11points in February, which was the highest level since 2001.

GfK researcher Rolf Buerkl pointed to the political uncertainty since last year’s inconclusive federal election as a factor behind the drop in all three components of the indicator.

“The political turbulence surrounding the formation of a stable, viable government in Berlin may have unsettled consumers,” Buerkl said.

The GfK survey was conducted from January 26 to February 9, mainly during ongoing coalition talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats, which resulted in an agreement on February 7.

The Chambers of Industry and Commerce expect the German economy to grow by 2.7percent this year.