Jobless rate falls to 8.8 pct, lowest since 1998

Greece’s jobless rate fell sharply to 8.8 percent in the second quarter, its lowest level since 1998, the country’s statistics service (NSS) said yesterday. Identified as the top economic worry in successive opinion polls, Greek unemployment had been stuck at levels substantially higher than the 12-member eurozone’s average, despite the economy’s much faster expansion rates. The data provides some evidence that the center-right government’s supply-side economic policies are starting to create jobs. Greece’s jobless rate in the second quarter of 2005 was 9.6 percent. 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 7.8 percent in July, according to data from the European Union’s statistics office Eurostat. «In the second quarter 115,000 people who were jobless a year ago found employment, while 77,000 who had jobs are now unemployed,» NSS said. «In addition, 71,500 who entered the job market for the first time remained unemployed.» Long-term unemployed, defined by NSS as people out of work for more than 12 months, made up 57.5 percent of the total number of jobless people – a sign that structural unemployment remains a problem despite a growing economy. The figures were based on a sample survey of Greece’s labor force, conducted in accordance with the rules of Eurostat. (Reuters)