Eurozone unemployment hits new record

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In bailed-out Greece, unemployment stands at 18.8%, up from 13.3%; while Spain now has the highest unemployment rate in Europe, at 22.9%

Spanish demonstrate unemployment and austerity measures in Madrid, 2011

Spanish people demonstrate against unemployment and austerity measures in Madrid, 2011. The jobless rate hit 22.9%. Photograph: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Public spending cuts and collapsing business confidence have sent unemployment in the eurozone to a record 16 million people, up 587,000 on the same month in 2010.

Official figures compiled by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, show the heavy toll taken on the workforce by austerity measures and the slowdown in the eurozone economy during 2011.

Unemployment across the 17-member single currency area hit 16.4 million by November. The unemployment rate – the proportion of the workforce without a job – has risen only slightly over the past 12 months, to 10.3%; but many workers have given up on finding a job.

In bailed-out Greece, the unemployment rate stands at 18.8%, up from 13.3%; while Spain now has the highest unemployment rate in Europe, at 22.9%. In Germany, however, still the motor of the European economy, and as yet relatively unscathed by the downturn, the rate declined, from 9.1% to 8.1%.

The sharp divide between the strongest members of the eurozone and its recession-hit periphery underlines the tough challenge facing politicians in finding a solution to the crisis that all their voters are willing to accept.

Young workers have been hit disproportionately hard by the deterioration in the labour market, the figures reveal, with youth unemployment rates much higher than those for the workforce as a whole. In Spain, 49.6% of under-25s were without a job; in Greece, it was 46.6%.

Rising unemployment was not confined to the single currency area, however: Eurostat calculates that 23.7 million people were out of work across the EU as a whole in November, an increase of 723,000.

Separate figures also released by Eurostat on Friday showed that retail sales declined by 0.8% in the eurozone – and 0.6% in the wider EU – in November, compared with a month earlier, suggesting that consumers are starting to tighten their belts as confidence is undermined by the continuing political turmoil.

EU leaders will hold a series of meetings in the coming weeks in a bid to strike a deal to underpin the single currency and prevent strains in financial markets becoming a full-blown credit crunch.

via Guardian

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