The Federal Employment Agency has just published data on unemployment for the month of March. And lo and behold, unemployment has even fallen slightly compared to February, from 2.39 to 2.33 million people. The official unemployment rate dropped from 5.3 to 5.2 percent. The actual unemployment rate is 7.1 percent after 7.2 percent in February. But how can that be with the corona crisis? Shouldn’t there be lots of new unemployed people in March? There are two concrete answers to this question. Here is the first. Quote from the Federal Employment Agency from the very latest report:
The employment market figures have not yet been able to reflect the current worsening of the corona crisis. This is because the figures extend to 12 March and therefore do not include the latest developments.
It is to be expected that the l job market will come under severe tension in the coming months due to the corona pandemic.
Short-time work as a rescue from unemployment
And the second reason is short-time work. Many companies keep their staff on the job. A salary reduced to 60 percent is paid by the employment office for several months. This is a kind of hidden form of unemployment. But it is a good instrument for companies to immediately ramp up production again after the crisis, so that people can get through the crisis with a black eye. In its monthly reports, the Federal Employment Agency always publishes data on short-time work with a two-month delay. So we now have data for January, where 108,000 workers were paid cyclical short-time compensation. This compares to 89,000 in December and 42,000 in January last year. The statisticians of the agency quote the current situation:
Current data on the audited claims are available for February and thus do not include the worsening of the corona crisis. According to this, cyclical short-time work was reported for 41,000 persons in February, after 42,000 in January. On the basis of the claims reviewed, it is not currently possible to make a reliable estimate of the actual utilization at the current level.
So, will a rise in unemployment in Germany as a result of the corona crisis not become visible until the end of April. Or will hundreds of thousands of workers be spared from unemployment (for the time being) by the instrument of short-time work? We are betting on option 2: A possibly very slight increase in unemployment, but a very strong increase in short-time work!