European unemployment increased to the highest in more than 14 years in February as companies from Spain to Italy eliminated jobs to weather the region’s crisis.
The jobless rate in the 17-nation euro region rose to 10.8 percent from 10.7 percent in January, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg said today. That’s the highest since June 1997, before the euro was introduced, and in line with the median forecast of 33 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. At 23.6 percent, Spain had the highest jobless rate among member states.
European companies are under pressure to cut costs and eliminate jobs after tougher austerity measures eroded consumer demand and pushed economies from Greece to Ireland into recession. While leaders have stepped up efforts to contain the region’s fiscal crisis, confidence in the economic outlook declined in March and manufacturing contracted.
In the 27-nation EU, the jobless rate rose to 10.2 percent in February from 10.1 percent in the previous month, today’s report showed. About 17.13 million people in the euro area were unemployed in February, up 162,000 from the previous month.
In Germany, Europe’s largest economy, the jobless rate held at 5.7 percent in February, according to the trend component, while unemployment in France remained at 10 percent. In Italy, the jobless rate rose to 9.3 percent from 9.1 percent based on provisional data. There was no data available for Greece.