BERLIN (AP) -- Germany recorded its highest number of births since 2000 last year, an encouraging sign in a country with an aging population.

The Federal Statistical Office said Thursday that 737,630 babies were born last year in Germany, which has a population of some 80 million. The number was up from 714,927 in 2014 and marked the fourth consecutive annual increase.

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The office offered no explanation for the rise, but noted that the number of people who died last year was still higher than the number born - as it has been every year since 1972. The number of deaths rose to 925,239 last year from 868,356.

Because of that, the statistical office forecast last year that the country's population would shrink by a tenth or even more by 2060.