Unemployment in the euro zone rose to a 15-year high of 10.9% in March, driven by lay-offs in Italy and Spain, and economists said worse was to come as the impact of the debt crisis extracts an ever greater toll.
The jobless rate in the 17 nations using the single currency increased by a tenth of a percentage point from February, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat reported on Wednesday.
The figures translate into 17.4 million people unemployed in the euro zone, and 24.8 million out of work across the 27-nation EU, where the unemployment rate held steady at 10.2%.
The last time unemployment was so high was in February, March and April 1997, before the euro was introduced.
“It now looks odds-on that the euro zone unemployment rate will move appreciably above 11.0% over the coming months with an ever growing danger that it will reach 11.5%,” said Howard Archer, economist, IHS Global Insight.