German workers on short-time up to 2.8 mln in Feb - Ifo

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BERLIN, March 4 (Reuters) - The number of employees in Germany on reduced hours as part of pandemic-related short-time work schemes rose to 2.8 million in February from 2.7 million in the previous month, the Ifo economic institute said on Thursday.

This represented 8.5% of overall employees after 8.1% in January, the Ifo institute said, adding that the estimate was based on replies from its monthly business sentiment survey.

"The picture is divided: while short-time increased, especially in hospitality and retailing, it is going down in manufacturing," Ifo labour market expert Sebastian Link said.

The share of short-time workers rose to 56.8% in hospitality and to 14.8% in retailing, but it fell to 7.4% in manufacturing.

The labour office said on Tuesday that some 2.4 million employees were working in December under the "Kurzarbeit" scheme designed to avoid mass layoffs during downturns by offering firms subsidies to keep workers on the payroll.

After peaking at some 6 million last April, the number of people on short-time work fell before rising again in November as lockdown measures for the hospitality and recreation sectors kicked in again to slow a second wave of infections.

The restrictions, which were tightened in mid-December to include most shops and services, will be lifted gradually over the following weeks after Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers agreed a phased easing of the curbs. (Reporting by Michael Nienaber, editing by Emma Thomasson)