Unemployment in the euro zone has risen to its highest level since the euro single currency was introduced, according to data made public on Tuesday by the EU’s statistics office Eurostat.
The jobless rate in the 17-member single currency bloc hit a record high of 10.4 percent in December 2011, unchanged from November’s figure which was revised upward from 10.3 percent, Reuters reported.
The announcement came a day after EU leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels promised to create millions of new jobs in an attempt to rescue Europe’s sagging economy.
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Some 16.5 million people were out of work in the euro zone at the end of last year, up 751,000 on the year before, according to the BBC.
The unemployment rate in the bloc was 10 percent in December 2010, with the euro area’s two-year-old debt crisis leading to a rise in joblessness.
Spain remained the nation with the highest unemployment rate, reaching a new high of 22.9 percent in November and December.
Greece came in second with 19.2 percent, according to the AFP. The lowest unemployment rate is still in Austria (4.1 percent), followed by the Netherlands with 4.9 percent and Luxembourg at 5.2 percent.
Unemployment in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, fell to 6.7 percent in January 2012, separate figures quoted by Reuters showed, a record low since publishing of figures for unified Germany began.
Joblessness rose slightly in France, the euro zone’s second largest economy, from 9.8 percent to 9.9 percent.
Guillaume Menuet, an economist at Citigroup quoted by the BBC, said he expected unemployment to increase in 2012:
“The outlook for employment doesn’t look particularly enticing, simply because the uncertainty is very high. In many cases you find firms continuing to delay investment projects. For those that are still making profits, hiring is being frozen, and for those which are under pressure to hit results or losing money, job losses are becoming the only solution that they have,” he said.
According to the Financial Times, there are now 23.8 million jobless across the whole 27-country EU. Yesterday’s summit in Brussels saw leaders agree on reprioritising EU development funds to promote employment, and national governments submitting “national job plans” to the EU.
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