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November 2017: Good development continues

Unemployment figures in Germany

More specific:

The social benefits system for unemployed people in Germany

Who is unemployed?

Different ways to calculate the unemployment rate

Unemployment rates in Germany in the last thirteen months

Average figures for 2016

Unemployment among foreigners

Unemployment rates in Europe
Law on foreigners in Germany


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Compared with other European countries, Germany seems to have low unemployment figures. But the lack of jobs is still a big problem as there are some German regions that have much more higher unemployment rates than others. In contrast, there are some sectors of the German economy where employers have difficulties to find adequate staff.

In November 2017, approximately 2.368 million men and women were without work in Germany, a country with a population of more than 82 million people. The number of unemployed men and women fell by 20,000 compared with the previous month and fell by 164,000 compared with November 2016. The official unemployment rate provided by the German Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) is 5.3%. Since January 2014, the monthly unemployment rate is lower than the rate in the corresponding month a year ago.

The methods used by the German employment agency are different from the standards used by the International Labour Organization (ILO). If the concept of the ILO is used, there are 1.6 million unemployed job seekers in Germany in October 2017, the unemployment rate is 3.7% according to the ILO standards.

"The very good development in the labour market continues. Unemployment and underemployment are declining, the employment subject to social security contributions and the demand for new employees continues to rise sharply at a high level,", Valerie Holsboer, member of the board of the Federal Employment Agency, says while presenting the figures for the eleventh month of 2017.
November 2017
Unemployment rate of Germany
Change compared with last month
- 0.1 pp
Number of unemployed persons
2.368 million
Unemployment rate of Germany according to ILO standards in October 2017
(According to the German Federal Employment Agency, Source: press release of the Federal Employment Agency of 2017-11-30).

map of Germany


Seasonally adjusted, there were 164,000 less people unemployed than in November 2016 and 20,000 less than the previous month.

According to the German Federal Statistical Office, 44.74 million people were in gainful employment in Germany in October 2017 (a plus of 650,000 compared with October 2016). In September 2017, 32.74 million people had a job that was subject to social insurance contributions, the agency told (a plus of 727,000 compared with last year).

In November 2017, the Federal Employment Agency registered 772,000 job vacancies, 91,000 more than a year ago.

The underemployment was at 3.359 million people, 149,000 less than last year's November. "Underemployed" people are not only "unemployed" people but for example also persons who take part in employment market policy relieving measures or job-seekers who have a part-time work (but workers with reduced working-hours are not included). (Source: press release of the Federal German Employment Agency of 2017-11-30).

Picture left: The New Town Hall of Munich (CC BY-SA 3.0, Poco a poco). In September 2017, the unemployment rate in the capital of Bavaria was 3.9% (Source: Press release of the Agentur für Arbeit of München 2017-11-30). By more than 1.3 million inhabitants, Munich is Germany's third biggest town by population. The construction of this building in Gothic Revival architecture style began in 1867.

Who is unemployed?

In Germany, a job seeking person is unemployed if she or he is able to work, does not work 15 hours a week or longer and is registered as an "unemployed" person at the local labour agency's office or job centre. The unemployed person must look for an occupation that lasts at least 15 hours a week. Further on, only a person who has not yet reached the retirement age and is not on sick leave can be "unemployed". The unemployed must be willing to work and accept any work, he or she has not the right to accept only a work that is similar to the previous one. An unemployed person who is 58 years old or more and receives welfare benefits for at least 12 months and has not got a job offer by the labour agency will not be counted as "unemployed".

Picture above: View of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (CC BY-SA 3.0, Berthold Werner). In November 2017, the unemployment rate in the capital of Germany was 8.5%. (Source: Press release of the Regionaldirektion Berlin-Brandenburg of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit of 2017-11-30).

Picture above: The headquarters
of the German Federal Employment Agency in Nuremberg. (CC BY-SA, Achates).
Two social security benefits for unemployed persons

In Germany, there are principally two different social security systems for unemployed workers. The first one is an obligatory insurance system that includes all working persons who earn a wage of more than 450 euro a month. Contributions to the insurance against unemployment are paid by employers and employees half. In 2016, the monthly sum for this insurance is 3.0% of the monthly gross income. For example: someone gets a gross wage of 1,000 euro a month. The employee has to pay 15 € a month and the employer too. The sum paid by the employer is additional to the gross income, the employer transfers the entire contribution to the social security authorities. For receiving unemployment money, an unemployed person must have paid contributions for at least twelve months in the last two years. The period for which unemployment money will be paid depends on the time an unemployed person has paid contributions. If someone has paid contributions for not longer than twelve months, the benefit will expire after six months, if someone has paid contributions for 24 months, the beneficiary will get this support for a maximum of twelve months. Longer periods are applicable for older unemployed men and women. The unemployment money will replace 60% of the net income of the last twelve months before unemployment (it will be 67% if the unemployed person or his or her partner cares for a child).

The other social security benefit for unemployed people is called Arbeitslosengeld II ("unemployment money 2") which has replaced the former welfare (in German: "Sozialhilfe") for those who are mentally and physically able to work. Therefore the unemployment benefit derived from the unemployment insurance system is often called "Arbeitslosengeld I" (unemployment money 1). "Arbeitslosengeld II" is being financed by the general tax revenue. For a single person, it amounts to 409 euro in 2017 or, for partners, to 368 euro for each partner. Children living with their parents receive 237 euro until they are six years old, 291 euro until 14 years and 311 euro until 18 years. Children from 18 to 25 years staying with their parents get 327 euro. Most other incomes will be taken into account with "unemployment money 2", especially child benefit (in German: "Kindergeld"). In addition, the costs for appropriate housing including heating will be covered. Both unemployment benefits will be paid if an unemployed man or woman gets only little unemployment money that does not secure his livelihood.

In November 2017, 665,000 unemployed persons were supported financially by the unemployment insurance system, 48,000 less than last year's November.


Unemployment in Europe in recent months (according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, seasonally adjusted)

Rate in
September 2017

Rate in
October 2017

7.1 6.9
Great Britain and Northern Ireland (August 2017) 4.2
Greece (August 2017)
7.0 7.1
4.9 4.9
7.2 7.0
EURO zone (19 countries with euro as currency)
entire European Union (28 countries)

The ways Eurostat uses for calculating the unemployment rate differ from the standards used by the German Federal Employment Agency (see below). It is estimated that 18.243 million men and women were unemployed in the European Union in October 2017. The number of unemployed persons fell by 111,000 compared with September 2017 and fell by 2.074 million compared with October 2016. The rate of 7.4% is the lowest rate in the EU28 since November 2008.

Younger job seekers: In the entire EU, 3.722 million young people under 25 years of age were unemployed. The average youth unemployment rate was 16.5%. The highest rates were found in Greece with 40.2% (in August 2017), in Spain with 38.2% and in Italy with 34.7%, followed by Portugal with 25.6%, Croatia with 25.2%, Cyprus with 24.9% and then Belgium with 22.7% and  France with 22.0%. Germany had the lowest rate with 6.6%. (Source: Press release of Eurostat nr. 182 of 2017-11-30).
Figures for the entire year 2016 in Germany

In January 2017, the German Federal Labour Agency published the unemployment figures for the entire year 2016. In that year, an average of 2.691 million persons were registered as unemployed in Germany, the average unemployment rate was 6.1% (compared with 2015: a decline of 104,000 and a decline of 0.3 percentage points). The number of those in gainful employment rose to its highest level since German reunification (43.49 million, a plus of 429,000). In June 2016, 31.37 million men and women had a job that was subject to social insurance contributions, 602,000 more than the previous year. "The labour market developed favourably in 2016, the number of unemployed fell again. Employment rose especially in the first half of 2016 and once again the demand of enterprises for new employees increased", Frank-J. Weise said, chairman of the Executive Board of the German Employment Agency. On average, 655,000 vacancies were registered with the agency in 2016. (Source: Press release nr. 2 of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit of 2017-01-03).


Unemployment among foreigners

Unemployment among foreigners is higher than among Germans. In November 2017, 625,000 foreigners were registered as "unemployed" which means that every fourth unemployed person is not a German (26.4%).

Foreign unemployed persons
by country of origin
(figures rounded)
Eastern European EU member states
Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain
Eastern Europe
Non-European homelands of refugees
Other countries

(Source: Bundesagentur für Arbeit: Der Arbeits- und Ausbildungsmarkt in Deutschland - Monatsbericht, November 2017, Nürnberg 2017, pages 14+15).
According to the German Federal Statistical Office, 10.5% of the German population were foreigners in 2015. (Source: Press release of the German Federal Statistical Office nr. 295/16 of 2016-08-26).

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate measured by the German Federal Employment Agency is a quotient of the number of unemployed persons and the labour force potential:

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, uses different methods that are recommended by the International Labour Organization (ILO). In this sense, a person is "unemployed" if she or he is in the age group of 15 to 74 years and without work, can start a job within the next two weeks and has looked actively for a job in the last four weeks. The total number of unemployed is a sample that will be extrapolated. Then seasonal fluctuations will be taken into account and the rate will be adjusted.

unemployment rate October 2016 to November 2017
(According to the German Federal Employment Agency. Source: Press releases of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit nr. 1, 4, 6, 9, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 20, 23 and 27/2017, 45 and 52/2016.)

Last update: 29 December 2017

Picture credits: The photo with the skyline of Frankfurt is based on the photo "Ffm-skyline008.jpg" (author: dontworry), the photo from the Employment Agency in Nuremberg on the photo "Nuernberg-BA.JPG" (author: Achates), the photo from Munich on the photo "Neues Rathaus, München, Deutschland20.JPG" (author: Poco a poco [Diego Delso]) and the photo from Berlin on the photo "Berlin Brandenburger Tor BW 1.jpg" (author: Berthold Werner) from the file repository Wikimedia Commons. These photos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.