Eurozone unemployment reaches new record high in April

  • 31 May 2013
  • From the section Business
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Media captionThe BBC's Jamie Robertson says the employment figures show "disparity across Europe"

Unemployment in the eurozone has reached another record high, according to official figures.

The seasonally-adjusted rate for April was 12.2%, up from 12.1% the month before.

An extra 95,000 people were out of work in the 17 countries that use the euro, taking the total to 19.38 million.

Both Greece and Spain have jobless rates above 25%. The lowest unemployment rate is in Austria at 4.9%.

The European Commission's statistics office, Eurostat, said Germany had an unemployment rate of 5.4% while Luxembourg's was 5.6%.

The highest jobless rates are in Greece (27.0% in February 2013), Spain (26.8%) and Portugal (17.8%).

In France, Europe's second largest economy, the number of jobless people rose to a new record high in April.

"We do not see a stabilisation in unemployment before the middle of next year," said Frederik Ducrozet, an economist at Credit Agricole in Paris. "The picture in France is still deteriorating."

'Social crisis'

Youth unemployment remains a particular concern. In April, 3.6 million people under the age of 25 were out of work in the eurozone, which translated to an unemployment rate of 24.4%.

Figures from the Italian government showed 40.5% of young people in Italy are unemployed.

"We have to deal with the social crisis, which is expressed particularly in spreading youth unemployment, and place it at the centre of political action," said Italy's President Giorgio Napolitano.

In the 12 months to April, 1.6 million people lost their jobs in the eurozone.

While the jobless figure in the eurozone climbed for the 24th consecutive month, the unemployment rate for the full 27-member European Union remained at 11%.

The eurozone is in its longest recession since it was created in 1999. At 1.4%, inflation is far below the 2% target set by the European Central Bank (ECB).

Consumer spending remains subdued. Figures released on Friday showed that retail sales in Germany fell 0.4% in April compared with the previous month.

Earlier this week, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted that the eurozone economy would contract by 0.6% this year.

According to Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING, in the past, the eurozone has needed economic growth of about 1.5% to create jobs.

ECB action?

Some consider that the ECB needs to do more than simply cutting interest rates to boost economic activity and create jobs.

Earlier this month, the ECB lowered its benchmark interest rate to 0.50% from 0.75%, the first cut in 10 months, and said it was "ready to act if needed" if more measures were required to boost the eurozone's economic health.

In its report earlier this week, the OECD hinted that the ECB might want to expand quantitative easing (QE) as a measure to encourage stronger growth.

Nick Matthews, a senior economist at Nomura International, said: "We do not expect a strong recovery in the eurozone.

"It puts pressure on the ECB to deliver even more conventional and non-conventional measures," he added.

The European Central Bank is due to meet next week.

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