Business, Economics and Jobs

Euro zone unemployment hits record high

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The unemployment rate across the euro zone has hit a record high of 11.8 percent in November, Eurostat records show.

The youth unemployment rate was 24.4 percent in the euro zone, a bloc of European countries that use the common currency.

Spain recorded the highest jobless rate of all of Europe, worse than even Greece, which had the biggest rise. Both countries saw unemployment for under 25s hovering about 57 percent, the Associated Press reported.

While not significantly higher than October's 11.7 percent, the records do indicate that the euro crisis may not be a thing of the past, despite claims by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.  

The Guardian reported that "the immediate threat to the single currency has receded, but politicians and policy makers still face an ailing economy."

GlobalPost's correspondent in Brussels Paul Ames said, "the gloomy figures are a timely reminder of the depth of the euro zone's economic woes, even as several leaders used the year-end holidays to project an upbeat assessment of the crisis."

Even with increased rates of emigration as young Spaniards, Greeks and Portuguese seek work in Britain, Germany or beyond, youth unemployment is at dangerously high levels across southern Europe, fueling fears of social unrest and political radicalization.

The EU's Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Laszlo Andor on Tuesday cautioned that welfare systems in many countries were struggling to cope with the high jobless levels.

"Unemployment has reached levels not experienced in nearly two decades and the social situation is also deteriorating," Andor said in Brussels. "Household incomes have declined and the risk of poverty or exclusion is constantly growing."

Andor said the EU's head office, the European Commission, would soon be presenting a Social Investment Package to address poverty, but many fear that a comprehensive package of growth measures needed to boost the southern economies is unlikely ahead of Germany's general election in September.

There was also some good news for the euro zone on Tuesday. Japan has announced it would buy up bonds issued by the currency bloc's new bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism. Finance Minister Taro Aso said Japan would "continuously" participate in ESM debt actions, but declined to say how much it would buy.

Follow Paul Ames @p1ames, who contributed reporting from Brussels.