ECONOMY

Jobless rate keeps rising; hits 16.2 pct in March

Greece?s unemployment jumped to a fresh record high of 16.2 percent in March, from 15.9 percent in the previous month, according to data published by the Hellenic Statistics Authority (ELSTAT) on Wednesday.

With the economy in its third year of recession, the country?s jobless numbered 811,340 in March, up from 578,723 in the same period year earlier, ELSTAT data showed. It was the highest reading since Greece started compiling monthly data in 2004.

A breakdown of the figures showed that the unemployment rate was as high as 42.5 percent for the 15-24 age group and 22.6 percent for those aged 25 to 34.

The number employed shrank 5.4 percent year-on-year or by 238,574 people to 4,185,325.

By region, the highest unemployment was in the southern Aegean islands, where the jobless rate reached 30.4 percent in March, compounded by a lack of off-season tourism jobs.

In the Attica region, unemployment was 15.8 percent in March, slightly higher than the rate of 14.8 percent in February, but up sharply from a 10.5 percent rate recorded in March 2010.

Economists expect they expect the jobless rate to start stabilising in the second quarter of the year.

The European Union expects it to average out at 14.6 percent this year and hit 14.8 percent in 2012.

Separately, industrial production in April fell 11 percent from a year earlier, compared with an eight percent decline the previous month, ELSTAT said yesterday.

The biggest decreases were in electricity production, which fell 12.2 percent, and manufacturing, which declined 11.3 percent.

The agency will release final first-quarter economic growth figures on Thursday.

Eurostat, the European Union?s statistics agency, published preliminary data last month showing that Greek gross domestic product expanded 0.8 percent in the first quarter.

The European Commission forecasts Greece?s economy will shrink 3.5 percent this year.