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Euro zone unemployment reaches a record 12 percent high

Unemployment across the 17 countries that use the euro hit a record high of 12 percent in January and February.

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A euro coin stands on a map of Greece. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Unemployment across the 17 countries that use the euro reached a record high of 12 percent in January and February, the European Union’s statistics office announced.

The European labor market has been in decline for almost two years now, making this the worst downturn since the early 1990s.

There is a grim inevitability in the monthly unemployment data, as Eurostat readjusted a previous estimate of 11.9 percent, saying the 17 nations in euro zone shed 33,000 jobs last month, bringing the total number of unemployed to more than 19 million.

As usual, the figures underscore the split between north and south. The Greek unemployment rate of 26.4 percent is almost five-times higher than Germany's at 5.4 percent.

One of Greece's leading think tanks warned the marginalization of so many was unsustainable and risked political and social turmoil.

"In other parts of the world double-digit unemployment has brought down governments," said Angelos Tsakanikas, head of research of the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), in comments reported by the Ekathimerini newspaper.

These latest figures were collected before bailout talks began in Cyprus. During the bailout discussions, Cyprus’s banks were shut for nearly two weeks.

More from GlobalPost: Cyprus: did president urge in-laws to withdraw bank deposits before bailout?

Cyprus reported 14 percent unemployment in February. Many economists believe the Cypriot economy will shrink by 10 percent in 2013, and joblessness will rise to Greek and Spanish levels, the Guardian reported.

Cypriot Finance Minister Michael Sarris, who helped organize the country’s $13 billion economic bailout last week, quit on Tuesday, explaining he will be under investigation as part of a Cyprus government probe into the country’s financial crisis, Bloomberg News reported. Sarris previously served as chairman of the Cyprus Popular Bank.

Senior Correspondent Paul Ames contributed reporting from Brussels. Follow him on Twitter @p1ames.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130402/eurozone-unemployment-reaches-record-12-high