Jobless rate shows signs of receding

Greece’s jobless rate remained at 9.7 percent in the first quarter, unchanged from the previous three months, but dropped on a year-on-year basis, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said yesterday. Identified as the top economic worry in successive opinion polls, Greek unemployment remains substantially higher than the 12-member eurozone average, despite the economy’s much higher expansion rates. The data conflicted with a statement from Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis last week that first-quarter unemployment had fallen to 9.5 percent, evidence that the center-right government’s economic policies were working. The government projects unemployment at 9.8 percent this year with economic growth accelerating to 3.8 from 3.6 percent last year on stronger exports and domestic consumption. The 12 countries sharing the euro had an overall jobless rate of 8.1 percent in March, according to data from the European Union’s statistics office Eurostat. Greece’s jobless rate in the first quarter of 2005 was 10.4 percent. «In the first quarter, 122,000 people who were jobless a year ago found employment, while 83,000 who had jobs are now unemployed,» the NSS said. «In addition, 72,000 who began looking for jobs for the first time remained unemployed.» The long-term unemployed, defined by the NSS as people out of work for more than 12 months, made up 53.6 percent of the total number of jobless people, an indication that structural unemployment remains a problem despite a growing economy. The NSS said out of a labor force of 4.4 million, counting people older than 15, there were 470,888 unemployed in the first quarter, with 39.7 percent looking exclusively for full-time work. The figures were based on a sample survey of the country’s labor force, conducted in accordance with the rules of Eurostat. (Reuters)

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