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German jobless record 5.2 million

By CNN Berlin Bureau Chief Chris Burns

Jobseekers stand by a dispenser for queueing numbers at a labor office in Frankfurt, Germany.

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- The number of Germans out of work hit a new postwar record of 5.2 million in January, the Federal Labor Office said, marking another blow to the leftist government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The 177,000 additional jobless were due to colder weather slowing such sectors as construction, and the so-called Hartz IV labor reforms that force long-term welfare recipients to look for work, the Labor Office said in a statement.

The seasonally adjusted rate rose three-tenths of one percent to 11.7 percent, the Bundesbank said. The Labor Office said unadjusted jobless rate rose one-half of one percent to 12.6 percent.

The International Labor Office method Germany plans to adopt would put the figure at 9.4 percent, the Labor Office said.

But breaking through the psychological 5 million figure and going well beyond bodes badly for Chancellor Schroeder, who is expected to seek re-election next year. The figure is the highest since the depression of the early 1930s, before Adolf Hitler took power.

Bert Ruerup, head of the so-called "five wise men" -- a government panel of economic advisers -- said in the mass circulation Bild newspaper Tuesday he expects the jobless figure to fall back in the coming months, though it will remain over 4 million next year. He expects growth around one percent this year in part due to high oil prices and the weak dollar.

Bild's huge front-page headline read: "5.2 Million Men And Women Unemployed. Do Something!"

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