Unemployment in the 17-nation eurozone unexpectedly spiked to 10.7 percent in January. The jobless rate across the wider European Union also soared, surpassing the symbolic 10 percent threshold.
Data published by the European Statistics Office, Eurostat, on Thursday showed 16.9 million people were out of work in the 17 countries making up the euro currency area. Compared to the same month a year ago, the number of people on the dole rose a staggering 1.4 million.
This was the highest rate since the introduction of the euro in 1999, Eurostat said.
In the whole of the 27-nation European Union, more than 24.3 million people were unemployed in January – an increase of 191,000 from December and of 1.488 million compared to January 2011.
With a 10.1 percent unemployment rate, the EU climbed above the symbolic threshold of 10 percent, after reaching 9.5 percent in January 2011.
Periphery falls behind
Eurostat registered the highest jobless rate in Spain, which saw a rise to an astonishing 23.3 percent.
This was followed by debt-laden Greece where official unemployment in January increased to 19.9 percent.
The jobless figure for young people under the age of 25 remained more or less the same at about 5.5 million, or 22.4 percent.
The countries least affected by unemployment were Austria with the lowest rate of just 4 percent, followed by the Netherlands with 5 percent and Luxembourg registering 5.1 percent.
European Union leaders are hoping to turn the corner on the unemployment crisis at their meeting on Thursday by mapping out new routes for economic growth, just as more and more national economies face recession.
uh/gb (AP, dpa, AFP)