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Euro zone unemployment rises to record 10.8 percent

Euro zone unemployment has been rising for 10 months.

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A demonstration in Madrid on March 29, 2012. Spaniards staged a general strike against labor reforms, spending cuts and soaring unemployment. (Dani Pozo /AFP/Getty Images)

Unemployment in the euro zone rose to an all-time high of 10.8 percent in February, following 10 consecutive months of increases that have taken the largest toll on the currency bloc's most heavily indebted southern countries.

The European data agency Eurostat said more than 17.1 million people were without jobs in the euro zone in February.

That's 162,000 more than were unemployed in January and nearly 1.5 million higher than a year earlier.

It is the highest level of unemployment since the euro was introduced in 1999, Al Jazeera noted

Across the wider 27-nation European Union, unemployment hit 10.2 percent in February, up from 10.1 percent in January, Agence France-Presse said.  

Economists expect unemployment to continue rising in Europe as budgets face tighter squeezes, particularly in bailed out countries including Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

"We expect it to go higher, to reach 11 percent by the end of the year," JP Morgan economist Raphael Brun-Aguerre told Reuters, citing declining incomes, public sector job cuts and weaker consumer spending.

Spain has been among the hardest hit countries, with an unemployment rate above 20 percent. The situation is worse for young Spaniards: one in every two is unemployed. 

Northern European countries are faring much better than their heavily indebted southern counterparts, many of whom have had to slash public spending — and jobs — to secure international bailouts. 

Unemployment in Austria stood at 4.2 percent in February. In the Netherlands, unemployment was at 4.9 percent and in Germany it stood at 5.7 percent.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120402/eurozone-unemployment-rises-record-10.8-percent