Friday, May 11, 2012

Greece’s unemployment rate hit record high in February

Greek construction workers stand behind banners in front of the Labor Ministry in Athens on April 4, 2012 during their protest against the austerity measures and unemployment in their sector

Source: Press TV

Newly-released figures show that the unemployment rate in debt-ridden Greece hit record high in February, rising to 21.7 percent from a revised 21.3 percent in January.

Data, released by the country's statistics service, ELSTAT, indicated that the total number of unemployed people jumped to 1.07 million in the month, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The figures also showed that the highest unemployment rate existed among the young people, with 53.8 percent of the country's youth aged between 15 and 24 being out of work and struggling to find jobs in the month. The youth unemployment stood at 40.3 percent a year earlier.

According to the ELSTAT data, the highest unemployment rate was in the country's biggest urban centers, particularly the ones in Athens.

February's jobless figure ranked the highest since the statistics agency started putting together monthly unemployment data in 2004.

Greece is now in its fifth year of recession, its longest in decades, with over 500,000 thousand jobs being lost between 2008 and 2012.

The coalition government has adopted spending cuts in order to secure emergency bailout funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union.

Analysts believe the sharp increase of the unemployment rate is due to harsh cuts demanded by the EU and IMF.

"The labor market conditions remain extremely difficult, as the implementation of the austerity measures and the continuing recession push businesses to further adjust their workforce," said Nikos Magginas, senior economist at National Bank of Greece.

"The new labor law, as well as the flexible wage agreements and the beginning of the touristic period may suspend unemployment's rise, but it will continue to remain at very high levels at least by the third quarter of 2012," he added.

The Greek have been protesting against the state’s austerity cuts since early 2011 when the government first implemented the measures.

In the recent parliamentary election, Greek voters, angry at the high unemployment rate and severe cuts to pensions and pay, punished the ruling pro-austerity parties.

The country is currently grappling with political uncertainty after the winner of the May 6 elections, the Conservative New Democracy party and the runner-up Radical Left Coalition, also known as SYRIZA, both failed to form a unity government. The third finisher, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, aka PASOK, is now trying its chances at forming the coalition government.

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