Brussels: Euro zone joblessness in March and April rose to the highest level since the EU began tracking unemployment data for the currency area, highlighting the devastating impact of the bloc’s debt crisis.
Around 17.4 million people were out of work in the 17-nation euro zone in April, or 11% of the working population, the highest level since records began in 1995, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat said on Friday.
The level was the same as March, as Eurostat revised upwards its earlier reading of 10.9% for the month.
While expected by economists polled by Reuters, the data came as a key business sentiment survey showed the deep slump in manufacturing across the euro zone and appeared to suggest the bloc’s economy will shrink in the second quarter of this year.
The bloc narrowly avoided recession in the first three months of this year as the economy stagnated but did not contract. Still, the picture masks the wide divisions in the health of Europe’s economy, and the same goes for joblessness.
While unemployment fell in Austria to just 3.9% in April, it rose to 24.3% in Spain, the highest in the euro zone. New data for stricken Greece was not immediately available, having reached 21.7% in February.
The number of people out of work also crept up in both France and Italy to 10.2% in April, the euro zone’s second and third largest economies respectively.
Joblessness in Germany fell to 5.4% of the working population from 5.5% in March, although economists say given the weakening business sentiment, even Europe’s largest economy cannot expect unemployment to fall much further.
“More uncertainty (from the debt crisis) would surely be poison for the economy and for the companies’ willingness to hire staff,” Commerzbank analyst Eckart Tuchtfeld wrote in a note to clients.