Eurozone jobless rate steady at 12 pct; Greece at top with 26.4 pct

The eurozone jobless rate was stable at 12.0 percent in February, the European Union statistics office Eurostat said on Tuesday, which could add pressure for an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank.

The February number was in line with expectations of economists polled by Reuters, and remained unchanged from January’s figure, which Eurostat revised up to 12 percent.

Data from the bloc of 17 countries using the euro showed another 33,000 people out of work in February, almost 1.8 million more than in the same time last year.

Unemployment of under 25s rose to 23.9 percent in the eurozone, with rates in Greece and Spain remaining over 50 percent.

Greece and Spain also saw the highest increases in unemployment rates, where joblessness stands at 26.4 and 26.3 percent respectively.

After three years of austerity policies to tackle the economic crisis in the European Union, some politicians have warned that cost-cutting measures which raise unemployment could result in the rise of populist governments.

“Prolonging austerity today risks not achieving a reduction in deficits but the certainty of making governments unpopular so that populists will swallow them whole when the time comes,” French President Francois Hollande said last week.

The dire social impact of Europe’s economic situation may give an impetus for the ECB to cut interest rates when central bank governors meet on Thursday. [Reuters]

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