Greece, Spain race for euro joblessness

Greece, Spain race for euro joblessness

ATHENS - Reuters
Greece, Spain race for euro joblessness

This photo shows protesters gathered in Thessaloniki, Greece in February. Greece’s unemployment rate reaches 26 percent in the last quarter of 2012.

The unemployment data released by the Greek statistics service ELSTAT showed yesterday that the debt-laden country is neck to neck with Spain, another European economy facing hard times.

As Greece’s unemployment rate climbed to 26 percent in the last quarter of 2012 from 24.8 percent in the previous three-month period, Spain’s rate was slightly over 26 percent at the same period, according to data of the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat.

Austerity measures demanded by international lenders under a bailout keeping Greece afloat have deepened the economy’s downturn with more pain expected this year as gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to shrink 4.5 percent.

ELSTAT said 1.295 million Greeks were without work in the last quarter of 2012, while the jobless rate among those aged 15-24 climbed to 57.8 percent from 49.9 percent in the previous quarter.

More than 800,000 jobs have been lost since the third quarter of 2008 and economists say a big chunk of unemployment is becoming structural because of the protracted economic slump which entered its sixth straight year in 2013.

Greece’s jobless rate is more than double the average rate in the 17-nation euro zone, which stood at 11.8 percent in December. The latest quarterly figure is virtually the same as in Spain, where unemployment hit 26.02 percent in the three months to December.

The most recent monthly unemployment figures for Greece - 26.6 percent in November and 26.4 percent in December - were the highest in the currency bloc.

Employment falls in eurozone

However, the euro zone’s stagnant economy failed to generate jobs at the end of last year as some 19 million people are unemployed in the bloc, or about 12 percent of the working population.

Employment in the single currency area fell 0.3 percent in the last three months of 2012 from the previous quarter, the fourth consecutive quarterly fall in the job creation rate, the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat said yesterday.

The shrinking size of the working population was most pronounced in Spain, where the job rate dropped 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter. Only Germany could manage an increase in employment creation.

“By the end of 2017, we estimate the unemployment rate will remain above 11 percent,” Diron, an economist at Ernst and Young, said in a new report on the euro zone’s economy.