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Euro-area unemployment rate holds at 12.1 percent; Greece reports 27.4 percent in September

Euro-area unemployment held at a record in November as policy makers struggled to bolster the recovery from the currency bloc’s longest recession.

The jobless rate remained at 12.1 percent, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said on Wednesday. That’s in line with the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 26 economists. After several revisions of previous months’ data, unemployment has been stable at that level since April, Eurostat said.

Europe’s fragile labor market remains a major concern for EU leaders as they try to foster the recovery. Last month, they acknowledged that the jobless rate remains “unacceptably high,” especially among young people, 18 months after they unveiled a 120 billion-euro ($163 billion) package to jump-start the economy and create jobs.

“The euro-area economy isn’t growing fast enough to significantly reduce unemployment,” said Evelyn Herrmann, an economist at BNP Paribas SA in London. “This isn’t going to change anytime soon, with annual growth rates of about 1 percent this year and in 2015.”

The European Central Bank estimates that the euro-area economy will expand 1.1 percent this year after contracting 0.4 percent in 2013. Unemployment will average 12.1 percent this year and 11.8 percent in 2015, economists forecast in a separate Bloomberg survey.

Meager growth has forced European companies to shed jobs in a bid to cut costs and remain competitive. European Aeronautic, Defence and Space Co. said last month that it would cut 5,800 jobs in Germany, France, Spain and the U.K.

Unemployment varied widely across the euro area in November, from a low of 4.8 percent in Austria to a high of 26.7 percent in Spain. Greece, which last reported in September, had a jobless rate of 27.4 percent. Among people under the age of 25, unemployment in the then 17-nation euro zone stood at 24.2 percent.

While unemployment remains resistant to policy makers’ attempts to boost the economy, positive signs are gradually accumulating, such as improving economic confidence. The European Commission will publish the results of its December survey on Thursday, with the gauge forecast to rise to 99.1, the highest reading since July 2011, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

November retail sales increased 1.4 percent from the previous month, beating analysts’ estimates, and 1.6 percent in the year, Eurostat said today in a separate report.

And the ECB, after cutting its main refinancing rate to a record-low 0.25 percent in November, sees ‘‘no immediate need to act’’ further on “encouraging signs” that the euro area’s crisis is easing, President Mario Draghi said on Dec. 28 in an interview published in Der Spiegel. The Frankfurt-based central bank will leave its key rate unchanged tomorrow, according to all 51 economists in another Bloomberg survey.

[Bloomberg]

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday Jan 8, 2014 (12:20)  
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