Wednesday 25 April 2018

Unemployment hits record in eurozone as pressure grows on politicians

Robin Emmott and Ingrid Melander

Unemployment has reached new highs in the eurozone and inflation remains well below the European Central Bank's target, stepping up pressure on EU leaders and the ECB for action to revive the bloc's sickly economy.

Joblessness in the 17-nation currency area rose to 12.2pc in April, EU statistics office Eurostat said yesterday, marking a new record since the agency began collecting data in 1995. Unemployment fell to 13.7pc in Ireland, according to the latest figures published earlier this week.

With the eurozone in its longest recession since its creation in 1999, consumer-price inflation was far below the ECB's target of just below under 2pc, coming in at 1.4pc in May.

That rise may quieten concerns about deflation, but the deepening unemployment crisis is a threat to the social fabric of the eurozone.

Almost two-thirds of young Greeks are unable to find work, exemplifying southern Europe's 'lost generation'.

MENACE

Economists and politicians, including Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, have said the greatest menace to the unity of the eurozone is now social breakdown from the crisis, rather than market-driven factors.

In France, Europe's second largest economy, the number of jobless rose to a record in April, while in Italy, the unemployment rate hit its highest level in at least 36 years, with 40pc of young people out of work.

"I've sent CVs everywhere, I come to the unemployment agency every day, for three or four hours, to look for work as a truck driver and there's never anything," said 42-year old Djamel Sami, who has been unemployed for a year, leaving a job agency in Paris.

Thousands of demonstrators from the anti-capitalist Blockupy movement cut off access to the ECB in Frankfurt yesterday to protest against policymakers' handling of Europe's debt crisis.

Some economists believe the ECB, which meets on Thursday, will have to go beyond another interest rate cut and consider a US-style money printing programme to breathe life into the economy.

"We do not expect a strong recovery in the eurozone," said Nick Matthews, a senior economist at Nomura International in London. "It puts pressure on the ECB to deliver even more conventional and non conventional measures."

In the past, the eurozone has needed economic growth of around 1.5pc to create new jobs, according to Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING. (Reuters)

Irish Independent

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