Joblessness climbs to a new high

Greece?s unemployment rate climbed to a new peak in May, highlighting the intensity of the recession for a fifth straight year.

According to the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the jobless rate rose to 23.1 percent, from 22.6 percent in April. It stood at 16.8 percent in May 2011.

The number of jobless totalled 1,147,372, compared to 836,331 a year earlier, while the number of those in registered employment dropped 3,816,912 from 4,137,452 over the same period. The ELSTAT data show that the jobless rate has nearly tripled in the last five years, from 8.3 percent in May 2007.

The young and women remained the most vulnerable groups. The rate of jobless in the 15-24 age group shot up to 54.9 percent — the highest in the 27-member European Union — compared to 41.7 percent in May 2011 and 31.9 percent in May 2010. Among women, unemployment rose to 26.8 percent from 20.4 percent in May last year, while among men it was 20.3 percent compared to 14.2 percent 12 months earlier. In the 25-34 age group, those out of work represented 31.6 percent of the total, from 23.3 percent in May 2011.

The European Commission regards Greek unemployment as ?a matter of deep concern,? spokesman Olivier Bailly told reporters in Brussels on Thursday.

?The unprecedented level of unemployment in Greece, in particular youth unemployment, is something both the troika and the Greek authorities need to address,? he said.

Other data on Thursday showed Greece?s construction sector, once a key growth driver, slumped again in May, as austerity sapped demand for new homes. ELSTAT said 31 percent fewer building permits were issued than in May 2011.

Greek industrial production rose 0.3 percent in June from the same month a year ago, compared with a 2.9 percent drop in May. The increase was the first year-on-year rise since April 2008.

Think-tank Foundation of Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) expects Greek gross domestic product (GDP) to shrink 6.9 percent this year.

?The unemployment rate could go higher and register 24 percent from September. Our forecast is that for the year as a whole it will likely average 23.6 percent,? said Angelos Tsakanikas, an economist at IOBE.

[Combined reports]