WASHINGTON -- Unemployment in the Eurozone reached a record high of 12.1% in May as the 17-nation region continued to struggle against its longest-ever recession, officials said Monday.
There were 19.2 million jobless people in the region, up by 1.3 million from a year earlier, according to Eurostat, the single-currency zone’s statistical office. The unemployment rate was 11.3% in May 2012.
Inflation in the region increased at a 1.4% annual rate in May, up from 1.2% the previous month, Eurostat said in a separate report. The figure is below the European Central Bank’s target of 2% annual price growth.
Eurostat initially had reported a 12.2% unemployment rate for April, but that figure was revised to 12% on Monday, making May’s 12.1% the new high since the Eurozone was created in 1999.
The revisions mean the European unemployment picture is better than expected, said Howard Archer, chief economist for Europe and Britain at IHS Global Insight.
But there were 67,000 more people out of work in May than in the previous month, he noted.
“The still marked rise in Eurozone unemployment in May highlights the fact that the Eurozone continues to face major headwinds and still has its work cut out to return to growth,” Archer said.
Spain had the highest May unemployment rate, at 26.9%. Greece had a 26.8% unemployment rate in March, the latest figure available for that nation.
Austria had the region’s lowest jobless rate, at 4.7%, followed by Germany at 5.3%.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.6% in May. That figure is projected to dip to 7.5% in June when the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report on Friday.
The Eurozone’s economy has been in recession for six straight quarters through the first quarter of the year. That topped the 2008-2009 recession, which lasted for five quarters.
Austerity measures designed to help several Eurozone nations deal with debt problems have pushed the region back into recession while the U.S. economy has been growing -- albeit slowly -- since mid-2009.
The economic problems in Europe hurt the U.S. by reducing demand for imports from across the Atlantic.