ECONOMY

Jobless rate jumps to six-year high

Greece’s unemployment rate rose sharply in February to just over 12 percent, the highest level in six years, as the deepening recession pushed 154,280 Greeks into the jobless queue in the last 12 months. Data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) showed that unemployment rose to 12.1 percent in February from 9.1 percent in the same month one year earlier. The jobless rate stood at 8 percent in February 2008. With Greece’s total work force numbering 4.4 million, those looking for work grew to 605,277. «There was an increase in jobless numbers in areas that are reliant on tourism,» said a source from ELSTAT. The jobless rate in the southern Aegean, where islands such as Santorini and Myconos are located, rose to 21.3 percent from 17.3 percent last year. The unemployment rate on Crete jumped to 14.3 percent from 9.8 percent. Labor market conditions are seen deteriorating in coming months as the economy is expected to remain in recession for at least another two years. According to the International Monetary Fund, which is co-funding Greece over the next three years in a 110-billion-euro program, the country’s jobless rate is seen jumping to 14.6 percent in 2011 from 11.8 percent this year. This figure is projected to peak at 14.8 percent in 2012. Austerity measures recently introduced by the Socialist government, aimed at saving Greece 30 billion euros over the next three years, are seen weighing heavily on consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of annual economic growth. Apart from tourism, sectors such as construction, retail and manufacturing have suffered the most from the ongoing crisis. The National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE), which represents almost 90 percent of the country’s commercial enterprises, is expecting up to 100,000 layoffs in the sector this year as traders adjust to the difficult financial conditions. The unemployment rate across the 16-nation eurozone hit 10 percent in February, the first time it has reached double digits since the euro was introduced. [email protected]