GERMANY

Unemployment Rate Stays at Record Low

German jobless claims dropped sharply in December and the unemployment rate remained at a record low, cementing Germany's position as the eurozone's strongest labor market.

The BA labor agency said jobless claims fell by 17,000 from November, adjusted for seasonal swings. The adjusted jobless rate, meanwhile, remained at the lowest level since the beginning of the data series in January 1992, following Germany's unification. It stood at 6% in December.

Frank-Jürgen Weise, the agency's head, said that Europe's largest labor market continued its solid run, despite a noticeable easing in job creation since the summer. Unemployment among foreigners has risen sharply, however, particularly among migrants from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa, BA said.

On average, 2.691 million people were unemployed in 2016, the lowest number since 1991, he said. An increase in joblessness in 2017 isn't expected.

"The effects of forced migration on the labor market are increasingly visible," the BA said.

Another factor kicking in this year is an increase in Germany's minimum wage to EUR8.84 ($9.26) an hour on Jan. 1 from EUR8.50 previously.

While most economists don't expect a significant near-term impact from a higher minimum wage, Clemens Fuest, president of Germany's Ifo Institute, cautioned about its longer-term consequences. "Germany can only integrate the large number of immigrants into its labor market if wage costs do not rise too quickly," he said.

--Nina Adam

HAITI

Tribunal Is Expected To Certify Election

An electoral tribunal in Haiti rejected claimsthat massive voter fraud marred the November presidential election victory of first-time candidate Jovenel Moise, officials said Tuesday.

The judges found some irregularities but not enough to affect the outcome based on an analysis of 12% of the ballots, the Provisional Electoral Council said in a statement that cleared the way for

Mr. Moise to be officially declared the winner of the race. Mr. Moise, a 48-year-old businessman who was chosen by former President Michel Martelly to run as the candidate of his Tet Kale party, defeated 26 rivals in the first round on Nov. 20 and avoided a runoff.

He won more than 55% of the vote, though turnout was low at 21%.

Mr. Moise will be sworn in on Feb. 7 if he is formally declared the winner, as now expected.

--Associated Press

IRAN

Hunger Striker Calls End After Wife Freed

An imprisoned Iranian human rights activist ended a 71-day hunger strike Tuesday as his detained wife won a temporary release from prison, a day after his case sparked a rare unauthorized protest in Tehran.

Arash Sadeghi was to be taken to a hospital, his lawyer Amir Raisian said, while Amnesty International said he would be fed intravenously. His wife, Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, was temporarily freed for several days in a decision that can be extended, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported.

The sudden decision comes after a days long social-media campaign and the march Monday toward Evin prison by dozens of Iranians. Such protests have been rare in Iran after violence that followed the country's disputed 2009 presidential election.

Mr. Sadeghi is serving a 15- year sentence over charges including "spreading propaganda against the system" and "insulting the founder of the Islamic Republic," according to Amnesty.

His hunger strike began Oct. 24 after authorities arrested his wife to make her serve a six yearsentence over an unpublished fictional story found in her home about a woman burning a Quran in anger over another woman being stoned to death for adultery.

--Associated Press

YEMEN

Saudi-Backed Forces Hit al Qaeda Outpost

Pro-government forces attacked al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen on Tuesday, killing 15 jihadists but losing 11 of their own troops, security officials said.

Troops backed by a Saudi-led coalition attacked an al Qaeda stronghold in the Marakasha mountains in Abyan province, east of the southern city of Aden.

Al Qaeda later said in a statement circulated online that it had "ambushed" the troops and fought them off, the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group said.

The officials said more than 60 military vehicles were involved in the operation, firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades before the militants were repulsed.

Yemen has been in the grip of a civil war since 2014, when Shiite Houthi rebels and allied forces captured the capital, San'a. A Saudi-led coalition has been helping government forces battle the rebels for nearly two years.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 04, 2017 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)

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