ECONOMY

Jobless rate climbs to 9.4 percent

As Greece’s unemployment rate continues to climb higher, the government yesterday announced a 2.5-billion-euro package to subsidize jobs in an effort to stem rising jobless numbers. The conservative government said it will subsidize existing jobs and public sector hirings in a bid to support young people and those working in tourism, construction and small businesses. A total of 500,000 people will benefit from the measures, said Employment and Social Security Minister Fani Palli-Petralia. About 70 percent of the package will be financed by European Union funds while the rest will come from national resources. «Our aim is to minimize the impact of the crisis by supporting jobs and workers,» she told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. Economists expect the measures to have only a limited impact on the labor market, as jobless numbers are expected to keep rising this year due to the downturn. Meanwhile, data released yesterday showed that Greece’s unemployment rate rose to 9.4 percent in January from 8.9 percent in December as the economy slows under the weight of the global crisis. The average unemployment rate in the 16-member eurozone was 8.3 percent in January, according to Eurostat. The Economy and Finance Ministry has said it expects the jobless rate to average 8 percent in 2009, versus a 9 percent estimate by the European Commission. National Statistics Service figures showed unemployment in the 15-24 age group, at 25 percent, was much higher than the average. Unemployment was also affecting women more than men with the jobless rate at 13.3 percent versus 6.7 percent for males. The European Commission sees the Greek economy growing by just 0.2 percent this year, compared to the government’s more optimistic 1.1 percent forecast. Greece’s central bank recently revised downward its 0.5 percent growth forecast to zero.