Euro zone unemployment reaches new high in February
BRUSSELS, April 2 |
BRUSSELS, April 2 (Reuters) - Joblessness in the euro zone reached its highest in almost 15 years in February with more than 17 million people out of work, highlighting the human cost of the bloc's debt crisis and governments' struggle to overcome it.
Unemployment in the 17 nation euro zone rose to 10.8 percent in February - as expected by economists' polled by Reuters - and compared to 10.7 percent in January, the European Union's statistics office Eurostat said on Monday.
Joblessness last reached February's levels in May and June 1997 and was only slightly higher in April 1997 at 10.9 percent.
In February, unemployment was 10.2 percent of the working population in the wider, 27-nation EU, or some 24.5 million people, rising from 10.1 percent in January, Eurostat said.
Europe's debt crisis has forced governments to drastically cut spending, while business confidence collapsed late last year, leaving many Europeans struggling to find work at a time when the euro zone heads into a recession.
The European Commission expects the euro zone's output to shrink 0.3 percent in 2012, and data released separately on Monday showed that the bloc's manufacturing activity contracted for an eighth successive month in March.
Economists are divided over the wisdom of bringing down fiscal deficits so aggressively as the economic slump also hurts tax revenues and consumer's ability to spend. But the Commission says lower public debts are crucial to win back investor confidence after the bloc allowed its debts to balloon.
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