August 17, 2017 / 6:51 AM / 2 years ago

German employment hits record, home building permits fall

BERLIN (Reuters) - German employment has hit the highest since reunification in 1990 while the number of home building permits fell in the first half of the year, data showed on Thursday, sending mixed signals about the state of Europe’s biggest economy.

In a positive sign for household spending and tax revenues with Germany’s growing population, employment reached a record 44.2 million people in the second quarter, data from the Statistics Office showed.

“That’s the highest level ever recorded in a quarter since German reunification,” a spokesman for the office said, adding that the services sector was expanding the fastest.

Employment between April and June rose by 475,000 on the quarter and by 664,000 on the year, the data showed.

Among the companies creating more jobs were information and communication firms, education and health providers, restaurants as well as construction firms.

Separately, data from the Federal Statistics Office showed that German authorities issued some 13,400 fewer residential building permits in the first half of the year compared with the first six months of 2016.

Home building has become a key driver of economic expansion in Germany as increased job security and record-low borrowing costs are boosting demand for real estate.

Higher state spending on roads, bridges and social housing, partly to accommodate a record influx of refugees over the past two years, is giving construction additional support.

A breakdown of the building approvals data showed permits were issued for nearly 150,000 new dwellings and construction work was approved for more than 20,000 existing buildings.

The total of some 170,000 permits represented a year-on-year fall of 7.3 percent, suggesting that construction and furnishing firms could expect fewer orders in the coming months.

Approvals for the “hostel residences” sub-category, which also includes shelters for asylum seekers, plunged 32 percent on the year to 8,461.

In the “apartment building” sub-category, viewed as crucial to avert housing shortages in urban areas, the number of approvals rose against the trend by 2 percent to over 82,000.

This was the highest level recorded in the first half of a year in 20 years, the office said.

Construction workers prepare concrete formworks in front of the TV tower in Berlin, Germany, August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

In 2016, new residential building permits issued in Germany jumped by more than 20 percent on the year to reach a 17-year-high at 375,400 units.

Higher investment in buildings contributed to a growth rate of 0.6 percent in the second quarter, the Federal Statistics Office said on Tuesday.

Construction also drove overall economic growth last year, contributing 0.3 percentage points to a GDP expansion rate of 1.9 percent, the strongest rate in half a decade.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alister Doyle

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