Business, Economics and Jobs

Euro zone unemployment rate hits record 10.9% in March as fiscal austerity measures bite


An unemployed man holds a placard reading 'Thanks for my future' as he takes part in a demonstration in the northern Spanish Basque city of Bilbao during a national strike on March 29, 2012.



Unemployment in countries using the euro hit a record high in March as governments across the region introduced tough austerity measures, slashed spending and hiked taxes to combat the deepening debt crisis.

The jobless rate rose to 10.9 percent of the workforce in March from 10.8 percent in February, which was the highest level since the euro was launched in 1999, according to the Associated Press.

The increase was driven by Spain and Italy, which are among those economies hardest hit by the crisis, Reuters reported.

Rising unemployment in Europe contrasts with a steady fall in the jobless rate in the United States, which fell to 8.2 percent in March from 9.1 percent in August, the AP said.

Europe’s poor employment performance was “the consequence of austerity and deleveraging hitting still-unreformed labor markets,” said Marco Annunziata, chief economist at General Electric, told the Financial Times.

“Even where reforms have been launched, as in Spain, their impact still needs to be felt.”

Governments across Europe are hoping fiscal austerity measures -- which have triggered sometimes violent protests in cities across the region -- will be enough to drag their economies out of the doldrums.

A number of euro zone countries are in recession -- or are very close to it. Spain slipped back into recession in the first quarter, Aljazeera said, citing data released Monday, after its unemployment rate rose to nearly 25 percent. 

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