ECONOMY

Joblessness at 9-year low

Unemployment in Greece fell to the lowest level in at least nine years in the third quarter as more jobs opened in construction and services, following more than a decade of continuous economic growth. The jobless rate, which isn’t adjusted for seasonal factors, dropped to 7.9 percent in the three months through September, the lowest level since 1998, when unemployment data on a quarterly basis was first reported, the Athens-based National Statistics Service said today in an e-mailed statement. Unemployment stood at 8.3 percent in the third quarter of 2006. The economy created a net 39,104 jobs over the period, according to figures compiled by the service. Greece is shedding jobs in agriculture and adding them in construction, retail, tourism and health services, according to today’s figures. The country’s -214 billion economy has grown for 14 consecutive years, the longest period of continuous expansion since the 1960s, as falling interest rates and European Union funds boosted spending and investment. Jobs in construction, a business particularly favored by low borrowing costs and EU funds, rose by a tenth to 401,800 from last year, the statement showed. Jobs in health services increased 5.8 percent to 239,400 as the government hired more doctors and nurses and private clinics expand. Still, rigid labor laws and high wage growth discourage employers from taking on more workers even though the Greek economy expanded twice as fast as the eurozone average for the past 10 years. The barriers to hiring particularly hurt women and the young, whose jobless rate stands at 13 percent and 18 percent respectively, according to today’s figures. With 8.9 percent of the work force unemployed in 2006, Greece had the second-highest jobless rate among the 13 nations sharing the euro, according to figures compiled by the European Central Bank. (Bloomberg)