Greece’s jobless rate finally showing signs of fatigue

Greece’s runaway unemployment rate finally appears to be running out of steam as, according to quarterly data released on Thursday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT), the second-quarter rate came to 27.1 percent, down from 27.4 percent in the previous quarter. Still, ELSTAT stressed that these figures are not seasonally adjusted like the monthly ones, and the rate is still far higher than that for Q2 of 2012 (23.6 percent).

Whether this quarterly decline is mostly a result of expectations for the sharp increase in tourism traffic seen during the summer remains to be seen and will become clearer when compared with the labor market data for the remainder of the year.

The data for the April-June period showed that the number of people employed came to 3,632,182 while the unemployed numbered 1,350,435. In the 15-24 age group the jobless rate came to 59 percent. More than a third of the unemployed are long-term jobless, meaning they have been seeking work for over 12 months.

“No one disputes the fact that unemployment in this country remains at particularly high levels,” Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis stated on Thursday.

“However the jobless rate for the second quarter of 2013 has shown a decrease, for the first time in 48 consecutive quarters – that is from mid-2009 to date.”

“The ELSTAT data are also in sync with the similarly positive records for salaried employment during the same period – as reflected on the Ergani database – thereby confirming that unemployment is slowing and the labor market appears to be stabilizing,” the minister said.

The emerging trend is clearer in the data concerning the index of employment in retail commerce: In the April-June period the index shows a 0.2 percent increase from the same period in 2012. A closer look reveals that the index for food stores posted a 2.2 percent rise, while that for stores that do not sell food or fuel showed a decline of 3.6 percent.

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