Largest ever leap in jobless rate

Unemployment in Greece shot up to 9.4 percent in April, its biggest annual jump on record, due mainly to a slowdown in construction and holiday bookings, official figures showed yesterday. The National Statistical Service (NSS) said the April jobless figure increased from 7.7 percent last year. «The increase in unemployment appears to be due to falling employment in manufacturing and construction and a delay in the start of the full operation of tourism enterprises on the islands,» an NSS statement said. Last week, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises said that arrivals at 13 of the country’s international airports for the first six months of 2009 was 10 percent lower than last year, with the average visitor also expected to spend less money while on holiday. The industry body said the drop was likely to lead to the loss of an estimated 19,000 jobs in the tourism sector. NSS data showed that the jobless rate among women rose to 13.3 percent from 11.8 percent over the same period and April unemployment in the 15-24 age group rose to 25.2 percent from 20.4 percent in April 2008. The head of GSEE, Greece’s largest private sector union group, Yiannis Panagopoulos, said the data confirmed «our worst fears» while also pointing out that the true jobless numbers are higher as many employees are forced to work without social security benefits and on a part-time basis. Economists said that if this trend continues over the next few months, then Greece’s jobless figure is seen as nearing the 9.5 percent mark.