People queue outside a government employment office in Burgos.
Eurozone unemployment levels have hit 12 percent – the highest in the history of eurozone record-keeping, since the currency was launched in 1999.
The average unemployment rate across the eurozone’s 17 constituent European Union countries rose from January’s initial 11.9 percent high to 12 percent in February, meaning a further 33,000 people were put out of work. Overall, 19.071 million are jobless across Europe.
Some countries, including Spain and Greece suffered unemployment rates as high as 26 percent over the month of February.
Spain and Greece have both been shaken by violent protests, with Greece experiencing a massive increase in suicides and attempted suicides in 2010 and 2011.
Conversely, the lowest unemployment rates are still to be found in Luxembourg (5.5 percent), Germany (5.4 percent), Austria (4.8 percent) and the Netherlands (6.2 percent).
Youth unemployment (under-25s) has also soared, leaving 5.694 million out of work in the EU 27 (3.581 million of whom were in the euro area).
In Greece, the figure of unemployed under-25s borders on 60 percent, while in Spain, 55.7 percent of the nation’s youth are still out of work.
In January, unemployment in the eurozone had reached a previous record high of 11.8 percent, according to the original Eurostat report, meaning it is continuing to rise, fueling concerns over the region’s economic crisis.
Some economic experts had forecast the rise in unemployment, especially after the earlier January figure was later revised upwards, to verge on 12 percent.
As the statistics relate to February, they do not yet take the impact of Cyprus’ bailout into account.
A separate survey, also released on Tuesday, indicated that the eurozone recession continued in the first quarter.
Workers and trade union representatives from all over Europe hold a demonstration against austerity near the European Commission and Council headquarters in Brussels March 14, 2013.
Within the last two weeks, Markit’s chief economist Chris Williamson aired serious concerns to AFP.
“Instead of the eurozone economy stabilizing in the second quarter, as many – including the ECB – have been hoping to see, the downturn could therefore intensify in coming months,” he said, expressing unease over the prospect.
The eurozone PMI shrank in March. Although not as bad as estimated a couple of weeks ago, the PMI stood at 46.8 points in the most recent survey. A figure below 50 is indicative of economic contraction. The overwhelming worry is that manufacturing activity has weakened across the region.
While there has been steady trade and good gains with non-EU countries, the drag on manufacturing order from within the eurozone is still significant.
Spanish manufacturing hit an especially steep slump in February, which follows news that the government plans to revise its economic forecasts for 2013, from an initially anticipated 0.5 per cent decline to a 1 per cent decline.
They Cyprus crisis in the last week of March seems to have had little overall impact so far. However, its effects could potentially strike later on in the year.
“While in some respects it is reassuring to see the events in Cyprus did not cause an immediate impact on business activity, the concern is that the latest chapter in the region’s crisis will have hit demand further in April,” Chris Williamson told Reuters on Tuesday.