German Manufacturers See Ranks Shrink

BERLIN (AP) -- The German manufacturing sector's work force decreased by 2.3 percent in the year to May, its sharpest decline in five years, government data showed Wednesday.

Germany's export-dependent economy sank into recession last year as the global downturn dried up demand for its manufactured goods. Recent data have shown industrial orders and production beginning to pick up, but the economy is still expected to shrink by a huge 6 percent this year.

The Federal Statistical Office said that nearly 5.08 million people worked in manufacturing companies with 50 employees or more at the end of May -- some 119,400 fewer than a year earlier.

The 2.3 percent decline was the sharpest since a 2.4 percent drop in February 2004, during Germany's last downturn.

The sharpest drops were in metal production, where employee numbers fell by 3.3 percent to 477,000, and in production of cars and auto parts. The auto industry work force was down 3.1 percent to 725,000.

German jobless numbers have crept up recently, although the impact of the crisis has not yet been dramatic because many employers have used short-time working arrangements to preserve jobs.

In June, the unemployment rate was 8.1 percent. A total of 3.41 million people were registered jobless -- a quarter of a million more than a year earlier.

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