European Unemployment Rate Rises to Highest in Almost 15 Years

Euro-region unemployment rose to the highest in almost 15 years and manufacturing contracted for a ninth month, adding to signs the economy continues to weaken.

The jobless rate in the 17-nation euro area increased to 10.9 percent in March from 10.8 percent in February, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today. That’s the highest since April 1997, when the rate reached a record high, according to Bloomberg News data going back to 1990. A manufacturing gauge in the region fell to 45.9 in April from 47.7 in March, Markit Economics said.

The European Central Bank will probably keep its benchmark interest rate at a record-low 1 percent tomorrow, according to all 58 economists in a Bloomberg survey. ECB President Mario Draghi said on April 25 that European leaders need to create a “growth compact” as spending cuts across the region damp activity and prompt a backlash among citizens.

The euro-area jobless rate in March matched the median forecast of 31 economists in a Bloomberg survey. The number of people out of work in the region rose by 169,000 from February to 17.4 million.

In the 27-nation European Union, the unemployment rate was 10.2 percent in March, unchanged from the previous month and up from 9.4 percent in March 2011.

Spain had the region’s highest unemployment rate in March, at 24.1 percent, with Greece at 21.7 percent, the report showed. The lowest rates were in Austria and the Netherlands, at 4 percent and 5 percent respectively.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fergal O’Brien in London at fobrien@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

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