Unemployment in the 17-nation Eurozone climbed to another record high in May, reflecting deep public sector job cuts and a lack of employer confidence in the most indebted, recession-wracked countries that use the euro common currency.
The jobless rate across the region rose to 11.1%, the highest since the euro was introduced in 1999 and up from 11% in April, the European Union statistics office Eurostat reported Monday. Year on year, the rate was up from 9.9% in May 2011. Across the wider 27-nation European Union, which includes 10 countries including Britain and Sweden that don't use the euro, unemployment was 10.3% in May, up from 10.2% the previous month and 9.5% a year earlier.
Spain and Greece reported the highest rates, 24.6% and 21.9%, respectively, and both reported that joblessness among those under 25 now afflicts a staggering 52%. The employment situation in Greece actually may be worse than the latest report suggests, as Athens again failed to update figures provided to Eurostat in March, prior to the governing crisis that followed Greek voters' failure to elect a functioning government on May 6. A second round of voting on June 17 has ushered in a coalition committed to staying in the Eurozone but facing demands for more spending and job cuts from its European Union creditors.
Northern European employment rolls seemed to be less battered by the protracted economic crises in the Eurozone, with Germany's jobless rate in May at 5.6%, Luxembourg at 5.4%, Netherlands 5.1% and Austria posting the lowest rate with 4.1%.
Stocks rose across the Eurozone on Monday, despite the grim jobs report that had been expected. Investors were still displaying renewed confidence in the common currency following Friday's surprise decision by European Union leaders to ease borrowing conditions for Spain and Italy to help them avoid the need to seek bailouts.
Meanwhile, in a sign of the continued fiscal woes gripping the Eurozone, a delegation from the so-called troika — the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund — was headed to Cyprus to discuss terms of a rescue of that country's banks, which are heavily exposed to Greek debt.
Also, a senior European Central Bank official, board member Joerg Asmussen, was in Athens on a mission to press the new Greek government to speed up structural reforms promised in exchange for its bailouts by European financial institutions. Greece had appealed for more time to cut its debt, and for growth-oriented spending to create jobs and revenue. Asmussen told officials in Athens that there was "no room for change" in the bailout agreement requiring reforms aimed at making Greece more competitive and better able to pay its debts, the ekathimerini.com Mediterranean news site reported.
Greece has been mired in recession for five years, and nine other Eurozone states are also in recession or on the brink of it.
— Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: Job seekers wait in line at a French job center in Paris on Friday. New unemployment figures released Monday by the European Union's statistical agency show joblessness across the 17-nation Eurozone at an all-time high of 11.1% since the euro was introduced in 1999. Credit: Balint Porneczi / Bloomberg