ECONOMY

Temporary dip in jobless rate

Greece’s unemployment rate dropped in March after climbing to its highest rate in six years the previous month. However, it is seen as resuming its upward trend later this year. The jobless rate fell to 11.6 percent March from 12.1 percent in February, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said yesterday. The number of unemployed in March decreased by 26,554 people from the previous month. Greece’s jobless rate was the fourth highest in the 16-member eurozone after Spain, Slovakia and Ireland and 1.6 percentage points above the bloc’s average in March. «We will see a deterioration in the labor market in the second half of the year, in line with weakening economic activity,» said Nikos Magginas, economist at National Bank. Magginas expects the jobless rate to average out at 11.7 percent for 2010, rising from 9.5 percent last year. According to job finders Manpower Inc, Greek employers expect the domestic labor market to shrink 5 percent in the third quarter from the second, led by job losses among utilities and in manufacturing and construction. Greece’s economy contracted 2.5 in the first quarter of the year and industrial production fell 5.1 percent, ELSTAT said yesterday. Economists and the country’s central bank see the austerity-induced recession deepening to about 4 percent in 2010. The jobless rate in March was 29 percent among those aged 15 to 24, the worst affected age group, followed by a 15.4 percent rate for those aged 25 to 34, the authority said. The unemployment rate was highest in the Ionian Islands, which include the popular holiday destination of Corfu, at 23 percent. The rate reached 16.7 percent in the southern Aegean, which includes the popular tourist islands of Myconos and Santorini. The jobless figure on Crete, the country’s most populous island, rose to 12 percent in March from 10.3 percent a year earlier. Sectors such as construction, retail and manufacturing have suffered the most in the ongoing crisis.