17 Million Unemployed in Euro zone
By ROBIN EMMOTT | REUTERS | APRIL 2, 2012
Unemployment in the euro zone reached its highest level in almost 15 years in February, with more than 17 million people out of work, and economists said they expected job office queues to grow even longer later this year.
Joblessness in the 17-nation currency zone rose to 10.8 percent – in line with a Reuters poll of economists – and 0.1 points worse than in January, Eurostat said on Monday.
“We expect it to go higher, to reach 11 percent by the end of the year,” said Raphael Brun-Aguerre, an economist at JP Morgan in London. “You have public sector job cuts, income going down, weak consumption. The economic growth outlook is negative and is going to worsen unemployment.”
February’s level – last hit in June 1997 – marked the 10th straight monthly rise and contrasts sharply with the United States where the economy has been adding jobs since late last year.
Economists are divided over the wisdom of European governments’ drive to bring down fiscal deficits so aggressively as economic troubles hit tax revenues, consumers’ spending power and business confidence which collapsed late last year.
Separate data released on Monday showed manufacturing activity in the euro zone shrank for an eighth successive month in March, providing further evidence for Brussels’ forecast that euro zone output will shrink 0.3 percent this year.
Despite the gloomy economic vista, the European Central Bank is expected to hold interest rates at 1 percent at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, as rising oil prices keep inflation above its 2 percent target.
“With inflation remaining stubbornly high throughout the euro zone, there is very little hope of a consumer recovery,” said Jennifer McKeown, an economist at Capital Markets.