Greece’s unemployment rate continued to rise in July, prompting the government to put together a package aimed at protecting jobs in the shrinking economy. The Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said yesterday that the unemployment rate surged to 12 percent in July from 9.6 percent in the same month last year. In June of this year, it stood at 11.6 percent. Nearly 53,000 jobs were lost in the period between July 2009 and July of this year, pushing the number of people looking for work in Greece to 607,035. Greece’s total work force numbers 4.43 million people. Those in the country’s 15-24 age bracket remain the worst off, with more than one in three, or 32.6 percent, out of work, compared to 23.9 percent last year. Unemployment among women rose from 13.8 percent last year to 15.7 percent, compared to 9.4 percent among men. The country’s jobless rate is now almost two percentage points higher than the average in the 16-member eurozone, a number that was revised up to 10.1 percent in July. The Greek government expects the figure to swell to 14.5 percent next year as the economy suffers its third consecutive year of contraction. In a bid to stem the growing army of jobless, the government is looking for ways to stop employers from reducing the size of the payroll as a means of cutting expenses. The ruling Socialists are likely to unveil a package at the start of next week aimed at protecting jobs in a program mostly funded by the European Union. Sources have indicated the incentives will aim to protect 400,000 jobs from vanishing in the next 18 months. It will provide subsidies up to 100 percent of social security expenses covered by employers, targeting mostly small to medium-sized businesses employing up to 50 people.