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What is Germany's real unemployment rate?

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

(Read caption) The German national flag and the European flag fly in front of the Reichstag cupola in Berlin, January 31, 2012. Germany's 5.5 percent reported unemployment rate doesn't include workers working less hours than they would like, but Karlsson argues that's in keeping with how other unemployment rates across the globe are reported.

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Dean Baker criticizes the New York Times for reporting Germany's unemployment rate as 6.7% instead of 5.5%. The 5.5% rate refers to those who have no job at all, while the 6.7% rate also includes those who have only apart-time job but would want to have full-time employment instead. While there is a case for including those who have fewer hours than they want to, it becomes misleading to include them while making comparisons between countries because other countries only include those who are so to speak full time unemployed.

I agree with Baker on this point, and could add that numerous other media outlets make the same mistake as New York Times. But he is actually wrong to assert that the German government reports the higher number as its official rate. Obviously, the German government reported it, as they are the source of both numbers, but the number specified in its official press release on employment and unemployment is in fact 5.5% and only (for the overall unemployment rate) 5.5%. The same goes for the Eurostat release on unemployment in the 27 EU countries including Germany. That makes it all the more puzzling why so many media outlets insist on using the higher number for Germany, and only Germany.


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