Greece and Spain top eurozone unemployment ranks as rate hits new record in May

Unemployment across the 17 European Union countries that use the euro hit another all-time high in May following revisions to the previous months’ data, official figures showed Monday.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said eurozone unemployment rose 0.1 percentage point in May to 12.1 percent. That’s a new record for the region as the previous months’ rates were revised down, including April’s original 12.2 percent estimate.

A spokesman for the statistics office said the revisions arose because of findings in its quarterly labor force survey, which provides key insights into the working population.

Across the eurozone, there were 19.22 million people unemployed, 67,000 higher than the previous month. Unemployment in the eurozone has been rising as the region has remained stuck in recession since late 2011. Figures next month will show whether the eurozone remained in recession during the second quarter of the year — the seventh quarter in a row.

Most economists think it will be a close call. While countries such as Germany have seen their economies prosper, those at the forefront of Europe’s debt crisis, such as Greece and Spain, have seen economic contraction on a massive scale.

Greece and Spain also have the highest unemployment rates in the eurozone. Spain’s unemployment was 26.9 percent, while Greece’s rate in March — its statistics are compiled on different timeframes — was 26.8 percent. Both countries are also mired in a youth unemployment crisis. Spain’s rate was 56.5 percent while Greece’s was 59.2 percent.

Elsewhere, Eurostat said inflation picked up to 1.6 percent in the year to June, up from 1.4 percent the previous month. The rate remains below the European Central Bank’s target of keeping price increases just below 2 percent.

The ECB is meeting this Thursday to decide what more it can do to shore up the eurozone’s economy. The main interest rate though is expected to remain at the record low of 0.5 percent.

[Associated Press]

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