Frankfurt am Main - The jobless rate in Germany held steady in January even as signs of a slowdown in Europe’s powerhouse economy mounted, official data showed Thursday. The unemployment rate was 5.0 percent, the Federal Labour Agency (BA) said in seasonally-adjusted figures, the same level as the previous two months.

In absolute terms -- less indicative of long-term trends but closely followed in public debate -- 196,000  more people were unemployed in January than December, at 2.4 million.

Nevertheless, “German firms’ demand for new workers remains at a very high level,” BA chief Detlef Scheele said in a statement.

The country’s labour market has continued tightening even while economic growth has slowed. Economic growth fell from 2.2 percent in 2017 to 1.5 percent last year, while government economists on Wednesday predicted a gain of just 1.0 percent in 2019. But the economy ministry in Berlin said domestic demand should continue supporting employment, with an average 4.9 percent jobless rate and 4.8 percent growth in incomes expected this year.