Unemployment reaches 27 pct

By Christina Kopsini

Hiring announcements may be on the rise, as data released by the Labor Ministry and a report from the Financial Studies Directorate of Alpha Bank are showing, but this progress is yet to be reflected in Greece’s unemployment rate, which in February continued to climb to record levels.

Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) figures showed on Thursday that the jobless rate in Greece expanded to 27 percent in the year’s second month, from 26.7 percent the month before and 21.9 percent a year earlier. Worse, almost two in every three young people aged up to 24 years are jobless as the unemployment rate for that age group reached 64.2 percent in February.

According to ELSTAT, the total number of registered jobless came to 1,320,189, up 270,766 from a year earlier and almost 624,000 above February 2011. On Wednesday the Labor Ministry’s Ergani electronic database registering hirings and firings pointed to a surplus of almost 30,000 new hires in April.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras stated on Thursday that he expects unemployment to start to decline from next year.

The weekly report by Alpha Bank argues that “this increase in unemployment is to a great extent due to the fact that the non-competitive jobs from the 2002-09 period cannot possibly be sustained without borrowing from abroad. The new jobs created now are mostly based on the the increase in competitive domestic production and not the explosion of domestic demand through excessive borrowing from abroad.”

“Labor market reforms have contributed to the remarkable increase in hirings on an annual basis since July 2012, as in the period from that month up to April 2013, the announcements of new hires have grown to 689,100 from 591,200 in the same period a year earlier,” the bank’s report stated.