Greek unemployment hits new record of 27.2 pct in January [update]

Greece’s unemployment rate increased to a record in January as the country’s economic downturn entered a sixth year.

The seasonally adjusted rate rose to 27.2 percent from a revised 25.7 percent in December, the Athens-based Hellenic Statistical Authority said in an e-mailed statement Thursday. That’s the highest level since the agency began publishing monthly data in 2004.

Greece is in another year of a recession amplified by austerity measures linked to bailouts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Gross domestic product shrank 6.4 percent in 2012 and the European Commission forecasts it will contract 4.4 percent this year. A Finance Ministry official on April 8 forecast a 4.5 percent drop in GDP in 2013.

“We’ll continue to have a deteriorating trend in the labor market, although the pace of deterioration is lower compared to the first half of the previous year,” said Nicholas Magginas, an economist at National Bank of Greece SA in Athens. “We’re not expecting more solid signs of improvement until the second quarter of this year, when tourism activity is expected to provide more support to the labor market.”

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said in February that pre-bookings for the tourism season in the Greece were “very good,” and a Finance Ministry official said this week that tourism is expected to offset the impact of Cyprus’s banking crisis.

The jobless rate for Greeks aged 15 to 24 was 59.3 percent, while the total female unemployment rate was 31.4 percent. The region with the highest unemployment rate was Epirus-western Macedonia, with 29.2 percent joblessness.

The statistics agency started releasing the unemployment rate on a seasonally adjusted basis from January’s 2012 data. The figures are subject to revision. [Bloomberg]

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