ECONOMY

Jobless rate jumps to nearly 16 pct in February

The country’s unemployment rate jumped to almost 16 percent in February, advancing for an eighth straight month, as Greece’s growing army of jobless workers moved closer to the 800,000 mark, according to data released on Thursday.

The Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said the jobless rate rose to 15.9 percent February, from 15.1 percent in the previous month . The rate set a record as the highest since Greece began releasing monthly unemployment data in 2004. In February last year it stood at 12.1 percent.

ELSTAT data showed that 787,229 people were out of work in February, with the total working population numbering 4.17 million.

Younger workers continued to pay a hefty price for the deteriorating labour market conditions, with 40 percent of those aged between 15 to 24 out of work. Those in the next age bracket are also hard hit with 20 percent of workers aged between 25 to 34 looking for work.

On a geographical basis, the jobless rate was highest in islands located in the southern Aegean at 32.7 percent, and lowest in the Peloponnese at 11.7 percent.

?Companies are adjusting to the lower demand as very negative sentiment affects consumption and investment,? Tassos Anastasatos, senior economist at EFG Eurobank, told Bloomberg.

Greece?s GDP contracted 4.5 percent in 2010 and is forecast to shrink 3 percent this year. Europe?s statistics agency will release Greek GDP figures for the first quarter tomorrow.