BERLIN: German unemployment rose more than expected in December, data showed on Friday, adding to signs that weakness in the manufacturing sector is hurting the labour market in Europe’s biggest economy.

Data from the Federal Labour Office showed the number of people out of work rose by 8,000 to 2.279 million in seasonally adjusted terms. That compared with the Reuters consensus forecast for a rise of 2,000.

A recession in the manufacturing sector prompted by weakening exports has dented Germany’s robust labour market, which has been the backbone of a consumption-led growth cycle.

It has also resulted in weaker growth.

Friday’s data showed that the rise in unemployment was the highest since May. The jobless rate held steady at 5.0 per cent — slightly above the record low of 4.9 per cent reached earlier this year.

“The weak economic cycle is leaving visible marks (on the labour market)” said Labour Office head Detlef Scheele.

Economists expect unemployment to rise slightly this year.

Yet a strong services sector should see more Germans entering the labour market.

“The employment trends should weaken but as long as it’s predictable 2020 should set a new employment record and real wages should rise,” said Martin Mueller of KfW bank.

He forecast the workforce would expand by 200,000 to 45.4 million and that unemployment would rise by 50,000, pushing the jobless rate up to 5.1 per cent.

“This prognosis is valid barring serious setbacks for the economy,” added Mueller. “The risks for the economy are considerable. They include the trade conflict between the United States and China and the risk of a hard Brexit.”