FRANKFURT - The German labour market continues to defy the eurozone debt crisis, with the jobless total falling to its lowest level in five months in February, official data showed on Thursday.

On the face of it, headline unemployment rose this month, but that was primarily due to seasonal factors, monthly data compiled by the Federal Labour Office showed. The raw or unadjusted jobless total rose by 18,013 to 3.156 million and the jobless rate -- which measures the number of unemployed as a proportion of the working population as a whole -- was steady at 7.4 percent.

Nevertheless, the seasonally-adjusted jobless total -- which irons out seasonal fluctuations -- fell by 3,000 to 2.917 million, its lowest level since September, the agency said.

Analysts had been expecting an increase of around 1,500. The seasonally-adjusted jobless was also unchanged at 6.9 percent. "Following weak growth in the preceding quarters, the German economy contracted by 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. But the chances have improved that the economy will recover again during the course of 2013," said labour agency chief Frank-Juergen Weise.

"Positive signals are coming from stable orders and brightening economic expectations. The labour market remains in fundamentally good shape and is reacting robustly to the difficult economic environment," Weise said. "The German labour market confirmed the recent signs of resilience in February," said Annalisa Piazza at Newedge Strategy.

At 6.9 percent, the jobless rate remains "very close to its record low since German unification in the early 1990s," she said.

"Recent business confidence indicators have started to signal a mild recovery in activity at the turn of the year and German companies have already started to revise their hiring plans, with caution.

"All in all, German unemployment is benefitting from a relative resilient economy and the effects of the past few-year structural reforms that helped to create a flexible labour market," Piazza concluded.

Natixis economist Johannes Gareis likewise said the new data, with a jobless rate close to its post-unification low, "support the view of a solid German labour market".

"For the foreseeable future we do not expect the labour market to significantly weaken, however, we expect that the positive developments of the last two months cannot be repeated so easily. For 2013 we expect the unemployment rate to remain around 6.9 percent," Gareis said.

IHS Global Insight economist Timo Klein found it "remarkable that despite GDP dipping anew during the final quarter of 2012, joblessness has returned to a downward tendency since December".

Furthermore, the consistent rise in leading indicators since November "augurs well for the labour market outlook this year", he said.

"The declining trend will thus continue in the foreseeable future, albeit at a very modest pace. Overall, labour market conditions continue to be much healthier in Germany than in most other countries in Europe."