Never before in the 13-year history of the eurozone have more people been without a job in the 17-nation currency area. However, soaring unemployment appears to have not yet reached its peak.
In March a total of 17.365 million people were out of work in the eurozone, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said Wednesday. That is an unemployment rate of 10.9 percent and the highest since the currency bloc was established in 1999.
According to Eurostat data, slumping economic growth in most of the 17 member states added another 169,000 people to the dole queues compared with the previous month.
The rise in unemployment coincided with sweeping austerity measures which are aimed at reducing EU member states’ spiraling debt, but at the same time are choking off economic growth.
The United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) on Monday criticized European governments for focusing too much on balancing their budgets while at the same time "losing sight" of the need to create jobs.
Eurostat also said that March jobless figures in the wider 27- member European Union rose by 193,000 people. However, it said the rate for the EU held steady at 10.2 percent.
Growth vs austerity
Eurozone unemployment was the worst in Spain, Eurostat said, where sweeping austerity introduced recently had caused the jobless rate to surge to 24.4 percent in March.
In addition, the jobless rate in Italy increased for the seventh consecutive months in March, the country's statistical office said Wednesday, jumping to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent in February.
The eurozone jobless crisis has worsened in virtually all member states, except in Germany where unemployment numbers dropped below 3 million in April, according to data published by the German Labor Agency Wednesday.
Meanwhile, calls are mounting for a new economic growth pact for Europe to complement the region's drive for fiscal discipline.
Francois Hollande - Socialist frontrunner in the race for the French presidency - said that the credibility of debt reduction "depended first and foremost" on economic recovery.
uhe/nk (dpa, AFP)