Jan jobless rate tops 15 pct mark; new record high (Update)

Greece?s unemployment rate topped the 15 percent mark in January, hitting a fresh record high, with more than a third of the country?s younger workers looking for a job, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Thursday.

As Greece?s economy contracts for a third consecutive year, the jobless rate rose to 15.1 percent in January from 14.8 in December, ELSTAT said in a statement.

The January figure is the highest since ELSTAT started putting together monthly jobless data at the start of 2004.

Some 23,000 people lost their job in December, boosting the total jobless number to 756,795. Greece?s working population stood at 4.2 million people at the end of January.

Deteriorating labour market conditions have taken a heavy toll on the 15 to 24 age group, which showed a 37 percent jobless rate in January, up from 30 percent in the same period a year earlier.

On a geographical basis, unemployment was worst in northen Greece?s Macedonia area ranging from 17.1 percent to 22.7 percent, followed by islands in the southern Aegean Sea at 20.7 percent.

Economists have warned that labour market conditions will further deteriorate in coming months despite the recession expected to enter shallower water later this year.

The Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) forecast in a recent report that unemployment will keep rising to an average of 15.5 percent in 2011 as it will take some time for employers to adopt recently introduced flexibility to labor laws and boost job growth.

On a eurozone level, the jobless rate in January among the 17-nations was 10 percent, reaching 20.5 percent in Spain and 4.3 percent in the Nederlands.

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