Tens of thousands of people across Spain protested education cuts last… (Manu Fernandez / Associated…)
How high can it go?
The Eurozone's jobless rate went up in January to a record 11.9%, from 11.8% in December, as the 17-member single-currency region continues to grapple with recession and the effects of stringent government cutbacks, according to figures reported Friday.
By comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate was 7.9% in January, and its highest since the Great Depression was 10.8% during the 1982-83 recession. The Eurozone's population is about 317 million, similar to the U.S. (The U.S. jobless rate for February will be released March 8.)
Within the Eurozone, jobless rates varied widely. The highest is in Spain, where unemployment ticked higher in January to a whopping 26.2%. Neighboring Portugal saw its jobless figure climb to 17.6%.
Joblessness in Italy, the Eurozone's third-largest economy, also moved higher, to 11.7% in January. And it edged up to 10.6% for France, the No. 2 economy. On the other end of the spectrum, Germany, the region's largest, held its jobless rate at a comfortable 5.3%.
Eurostat, the statistical agency for the European Union, said the jobless rate for the Eurozone's youth -- 15 to 24 year olds -- rose to 24.2%.
"Most EU nations effectively have dual labor markets, with permanent jobs typically protected by unions and held by people older than 35 and temporary jobs that are unprotected and held by younger workers," said Anna Zabrodzka, an economist at Moody's Analytics' office in Prague, Czech Republic, in a research note Friday.
Analysts say the unemployment rate is likely to rise still higher as the recession drags on and the economic and political fallout from fiscal belt-tightening continues. Italy's recent inconclusive elections, for example, have renewed concerns about that county's financial stability and its structural reforms.
"Rising unemployment, higher taxes, weakening wage growth, and tightened credit are eating into household purchasing power and constraining household spending," said Zabrodzka. "The subdued global environment and fiscal austerity will affect economic activity in the Eurozone."
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