Germany's unemployment rate crept up to 6.7 percent in December due to seasonal factors and a more sluggish economy, but the labor market remained robust and the average number of people out of work last year was the lowest in more than two decades.
The unadjusted jobless rate rose from 6.5 percent in November, the Federal Labor Agency said Thursday. Some 2.84 million people were registered unemployed in Germany, Europe's biggest economy — 80,000 more than the previous month and 60,000 higher than a year earlier.
Germany's economy has enjoyed robust growth that kept down unemployment even as many debt-troubled European partners have seen output shrink and joblessness soar — to about 25 percent in the cases of Spain and Greece.
Still, the economy saw slower growth in 2012 than in previous years. Official growth figures for 2012 are due on Jan. 15; the government has forecast growth of 0.8 percent.
Excluding seasonal factors such as the Christmas holidays, Germany's unemployment rate was static at 6.9 percent in December, while the number of jobless was a modest 3,000 higher than the previous month.
Germany's labor market remains healthier than that of most other European countries, but "ramifications of the eurozone debt crisis ... have at least halted any further improvement for the time being," said Timo Klein, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Frankfurt.
Still, he noted that the upturn in unemployment figures "remains extremely subdued" and in fact slowed in the final months of 2012. German business confidence has rebounded lately, and Klein said he doesn't expect "any major deterioration with large increases in joblessness during the coming months."
The labor agency said that the number of people out of work averaged just under 2.9 million last year — 79,000 lower than in 2011 and the lowest figure since 1991, shortly after German reunification. The average unadjusted unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, down from 7.1 percent the previous year.