Italy Jobless Rate Reaches 12%, 36-Year-High Amid Recession

Italy’s jobless rate reached a 36-year high in April as companies didn’t hire staff amid pessimism about the outlook of an economy that’s probably in its eighth quarter of recession.

Joblessness rose to 12 percent after the March reading was revised up to 11.9 percent from an initial 11.5 percent, the Rome-based national statistics office Istat said in a preliminary report today. The April rate was higher than the 11.6 percent median of seven estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Unemployment remained above 10 percent for a 15th month and reached the highest since the data series began in the first quarter of 1977.

Europe’s fourth-biggest economy will contract 1.8 percent in 2013 as weak household demand extends the longest recession in over two decades, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said this week. “Employment and hours worked will continue to fall, constraining household budgets and consumption spending,” the Paris-based OECD said.

Italy’s new Prime Minister Enrico Letta told Italian lawmakers last month that employment will be the “top priority” of his government. In a May 25 letter to European President Herman Van Rompuy, Letta demanded that measures to boost employment be discussed at the European Council on June 27-28.

The unemployment rate for people between the age of 15 and 24 rose to 40.5 percent in April, the highest since the data series began in 1966, Istat said today.

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