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West German economy marred by latest unemployment figures

Even the successful West German economy is marred by unemployment. Figures released the first week in August show a 9 percent June-to-July jump of persons without work, for a total of 853,000 or 3.7 percent unemployment.

In the same period job openings dropped to 335,000.

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This level of joblessness is moderate by American or British standards, and three-fourths of it comes from hard-to-hire special groups: the older, the handicapped, the unskilled. But the figures still worry the West Germans.

West German Federal Office of Employment statistics are not seasonally adjusted. The June-July increase therefore reflects the entry onto the labor market of school leavers, with this year's number swelled by a demographic boom in this age bracket. The 77,000 jobless persons under under 20 represent only 3 .4 percent of the unemployment in this category, however, or slightly better than the overall average.

The outlook has even improved for the next younger group, the 1.6 million in three-year vocational training. The number of apprentice posts has increased some 16 percent over last year, for an approximate balance of applicants and openings.

Women remain among the hardest hit, with 5.2 percent unemployment, or almost double the men's average of 2.7 percent.

The official number of unemployed among Turks and other foreign workers dropped in July to 91,000 because of an administrative change. Those who are applying for political asylum here no longer have a right to a job (and therefore do not show up on unemployment lists) during their first year of waiting in West Germany.

In analyzing the figures, Employment Office president Josef Stingl attributed the June-July unemployment increase to the overall deceleration of the economy.

Political reactions to the unemployment figures differ. The trade unions are demanding a lowering of the current high interest rates and also shorter working hours (at the same pay) in order to spread jobs. A spokesman for the Social Democracts, the senior government party, endorsed these demands following release of the new unemployment statistics. The Social Democrats have not put any political muscle behind these demands, however.

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The government's junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party -- which advocates a classic liberal policy of as little government intervention as possible in the economy -- regards the current unemployment as more seasonal than structural. A spokesman warned against "dramatization" and "hectic" reactions to the figures.

A spokesman for the opposition conservatives called the figures an "alarm signal" and cited some Economic Research Institute projections of a record 1.1 million unemployed next year. Chancellor candidate Franz Josef Strauss called for tax relief for investors and again criticized the government's mounting debt.

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