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July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s unemployment rate rose to 12.6 percent in May, nearing record highs reached earlier this year, as the country’s economy struggles to return to growth.

The unemployment rate rose from a revised 12.5 percent in April, the Rome-based national statistics office Istat said in a preliminary report today. That matched the median estimate of five economists surveyed by Bloomberg and was just under the 12.7 percent record reached in January and February.

Joblessness among those between the ages of 15 and 24 fell to 43 percent in May from 43.2 percent in April, today’s report showed.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, who is trying to make the country’s labor market more flexible to stimulate hiring, has pledged to bring the youth unemployment issue to the table during Italy’s rotating presidency of the European Union, which starts today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chiara Vasarri in Rome at; Alessandra Migliaccio in Rome at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jerrold Colten at Kevin Costelloe, Dan Liefgreen

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