LONDON – The number of jobless workers in the 17 nations that use the euro dropped very slightly in June, but unemployment remains at a record rate as the currency zone continues to grapple with a lingering recession, statistics released Wednesday show.
Nearly 19.27 million people were out of work in the Eurozone in June, the European Union’s statistical office reported. That’s 24,000 fewer than in May, a marginal improvement that did not impact the overall jobless rate, which has held steady since March at a record 12.1%.
The unchanged rate suggests that, while the Eurozone’s employment picture is no longer getting worse, it has yet really to rebound. Summer could provide its traditional boost in tourism jobs, but long-term employment remains elusive for many.
The situation is especially dire for young people, particularly in nations where the euro debt problems have hit hardest. Youth unemployment in the Eurozone rose slightly in June, despite the small drop in total number of people out of work. In Spain and Greece, which have had to seek international bailout loans (Spain for its banks, Greece for its government), more than half of all workers under 25 are idle, which experts warn could lead to an enduring social crisis.
And the contrast remains stark between southern and northern Europe. The North enjoys the lowest unemployment rates in the 28-nation EU: 4.6% in Austria and 5.4% in Germany, compared with 26.3% in Spain and 17.4% in Portugal.
Still, some analysts are hopeful that the Eurozone may be on the cusp of a wider recovery. Spain, the zone’s fourth-largest economy, is still in recession, but its economy shrank by just 0.1% in the second quarter, which could herald a return to growth.
In a separate report Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund said Greece could emerge next year from its depression, which has seen its economy contract by a fifth and its rates of joblessness, homelessness and suicide rise.
But as part of its painful austerity plan, which Athens must implement to continue receiving bailout funds, thousands of public-sector employees are to be suspended from their jobs and could lose them altogether, which will compound Greece’s misery. The IMF warned that, despite its progress in cutting costs, the government could face another shortfall of up to $14.5 billion in 2015, putting pressure on Athens’ European partners to cough up more assistance.