Italy Unemployment Falls for Second Month as Slump Eases

Italy’s jobless rate fell for a second month in July signaling businesses may be less reluctant to hire as the country’s longest recession since the World War II eased.

Unemployment fell to 12 percent from 12.1 percent in June, the Rome-based national statistics office Istat said in a preliminary report today. The July rate was lower than the 12.2 percent median of seven estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. Still, unemployment remained above 10 percent for an 18th month.

Joblessness reached 12.2 in May, the highest since the data series began in the first quarter of 1977. Italy contracted for an eighth quarter in the three months through June. Gross domestic product fell 0.2 percent from the previous quarter, when it declined 0.6 percent.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s cabinet approved tax breaks for companies that offer permanent job contracts and will pass a second round of measures for youth in coming months. Both consumer and business confidence rose this month amid optimism the country will return to growth.

The unemployment rate for people between the age of 15 and 24 rose to 39.5 percent in July, Istat said today.