Unemployment hit 9.0 pct in Feb

Greece’s unemployment rate rose in February compared with January, as winter took a heavier toll on seasonal jobs in farming and construction, but stayed lower than in February 2006, official figures showed yesterday. The jobless rate was 9.0 percent in February against 8.6 percent in January and 10.4 percent in February last year, according to the unadjusted data of the National Statistics Service (NSS). Greece has started providing monthly unemployment data for the first time this year, after previously reporting jobless numbers only on a quarterly basis. Unemployment and rising consumer prices have been shown to be the major economic concerns in successive public opinion polls and are certain to be on the minds of voters as elections loom, possibly as early as October. NSS officials said the February rise in unemployment chiefly reflected a trough in construction and farming jobs affected by the winter season, along with a decline in tourism-related jobs in the post-Christmas holiday period. Despite Greece’s strong economic growth, joblessness remains higher than the eurozone average, indicating that a large part of unemployment is structural. Unemployment in the 13-member eurozone in February was 7.3 percent according to European Union statistics office Eurostat. Greece’s economy, projected to expand by 3.9 percent this year, grew at a faster-than-expected rate of 4.6 percent in the first quarter. The NSS said there were 440,982 people officially unemployed in Greece. It also estimated that 4.43 million people had jobs. It said unemployment had been steadily declining from a rate of 11 percent in February 2004, the year Greece hosted the Olympic Games. Joblessness continued to affect women more than men. In February, unemployment among females was 13.9 percent compared to 5.7 percent for men. (Reuters)