Greek unemployment rate hits all-time high

Unemployment in Greece grew at a stunning rate of 1,200 people per day in May, climbing to 16.6 percent of the Greek work force that month, according to data released on Thursday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT).

The total number of jobless Greeks soared above the 800,000 level for the first time in the last few years, reaching 822,719. Twelve months earlier, in May 2010, the figure stood at 602,185, or 220,534 fewer jobless people. In percentage terms it was at 12 percent, having been at just 6.6 percent in May 2008.

The steep rise in unemployment is obviously due to the recession of the Greek economy in the last couple of years and the austerity measures imposed, forcing a considerable number of enterprises to close down and thousands of jobs to be lost without being replaced in the market.

The situation is worsening by the month, as in April 2011 the unemployment rate had stood at 15.8 percent, which means an additional 36,260 people lost their jobs within May alone, or about 1,200 per day.

As usual, the problem is greater among women and the young. One in every five women (20 percent) seeking a job in May could not find one (against 14.1 percent for men), while 40.1 percent of people aged between 15 and 24 were unemployed. The worst-hit region was Western Macedonia, with a 24.9 percent jobless rate.

The economically inactive population, which includes all men and women who are not part of the labor force, i.e. are neither employed nor unemployed, now includes 4,383,374 people.

In a recent survey on the Greek economy, the OECD forecast an unemployment rate of 16 per cent in 2011 and 16.4 per cent in 2012.

The most worrying element from the ELSTAT data is that May has traditionally been a month with reduced unemployment as there are usually many seasonal jobs on offer thanks to the start of the summer period.

If the jobless figure climbed by 36,000 thousand in May alone, September is likely to be particularly difficult for the labor market, while estimates put the number of unemployed by the end of the year at over 1 million, constituting a major social problem with an explosive potential.

In view of this situation, the Labor Ministry announced yesterday that workers insured with the Social Security Foundation, the private sector?s biggest social security fund, will not need to complete 80 days of work by March 2012 to secure medical coverage for themselves and their families, but just 50 days instead.