Jobless numbers hit three-year high

Greece’s jobless rate rose to 9.3 percent in the first quarter of 2009, a three-year high, up from 7.9 percent in the last three months of 2008, with unemployment queues expected to get longer in coming months. In the first quarter of last year unemployment stood at 8.3 percent. Data from the National Statistical Service (NSS) showed yesterday unemployment in the 15-29 age group was much higher, at 18.5 percent. Unemployment was also seen affecting women more than men with the female jobless rate at 13.0 percent versus 6.8 percent for the male population. Economists said that the relative resilience observed in retail trade and other sectors has been offset by a drop in manufacturing and construction. Investment in Greece’s building sector, which employs in the region of 400,000 people, has slumped with an improvement not expected by some experts until the middle of next year. According to data from Eurostat, the average jobless rate in the eurozone stood at 8.9 percent in March and worsened to 9.2 in April. In its spring forecasts, the European Commission projected Greece’s unemployment will rise to 9.1 percent this year from 7.7 percent in 2008. Athens remains more optimistic, projecting a jobless rate of 8.0 percent. The NSS said yesterday there were about 462,343 people officially unemployed in the first quarter, while an estimated 4.48 million had jobs. Meanwhile, the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, said yesterday the world’s major economies will contract throughout 2009 and the problem of unemployment will linger. «We see a very difficult 2009, with negative growth in the OECD area. Unemployment problems are going to continue to linger,» Gurria told Reuters. «When the economy starts to grow again, employment will still be shrinking. When you have a very deep, sharp drop in employment, it takes many years to get back.»