Euro zone jobless hits highest level since birth of euro

January 31, 2012 12:48

BRUSSELS - Euro zone unemployment has risen to its highest level since the euro single currency was introduced, data showed on Tuesday, a day after EU leaders promised to focus on creating millions of new jobs to try to kickstart Europe's floundering economy.

Seasonally adjusted unemployment among the 17 countries sharing the euro rose to 10.4 percent in December, on a par with an upwardly revised November figure, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said.

It was the highest rate since June 1998, before the introduction of the euro in 1999.

"We're looking at a further increase over the coming months, so that is worrying," said Martin van Vliet, an economist at ING. "Look at Greece, where unemployment is some 20 percent, and it is 23 percent in Spain. At a certain point this could lead to political unrest."

After two years of a deep debt crisis and budget austerity, the number of Europeans out of work has risen to 16.5 million people, with another 20,000 people without a job in December from the month before. The rate steadily crept up through 2011 as growth stalled and recession loomed.

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