Unemployment in Germany remains in surprisingly good shape at the start of 2014 as the outlook for Europe's top economy continues to improve, according to the latest official data.

The German jobless total increased by 263,000 to 3.136 million in January from December, the Federal Labour Office calculated.

The German jobless rate - which measures the proportion of people out of work against the working population as a whole - jumped to 7.3% in January from 6.7% last month.

But unemployment tends to rise in the winter months as sectors such as the construction industry lay off workers due to the bad weather.

Adjusted for such factors, the number of people registered as unemployed in Germany fell by 28,000 to 2.927 million in seasonally adjusted terms this month, the Federal Labour Office said in a statement.

Analysts had been projecting a much smaller decline of just 5,000.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.8% the Federal Labour Office said. "The labour market is continuing to develop positively," it added.
Labour Minister Andrea Nahles agreed. "Today's data show that the labour market is in good shape and the employment situation in Germany is stable," she said. 

Analysts said that the strong labour market reflects the economic recovery following the European Central Bank's actions in summer 2012, and raises the chances of stronger wage growth and higher consumption this year.