Europe's unemployment numbers are rising to worrying new records with dire figures from Spain especially underlining a growing north-south divide, official data showed on Tuesday.
The unemployment rate across the troubled eurozone hit 11.8% in November, up from 11.7% in October, with the number of people out of work in the 17-nation single currency area now nudging 19 million.
The 19th rise in a row for the eurozone, home to some 330 million people, represented an increase of more than two million on the dole compared to a year ago.
London-based IHS Global Insight analyst Howard Archer calculated the cumulative increase since April 2011 as 3.278 million out-of-work.
"The only crumb of comfort was that this was the smallest rise since August, although it did follow a particularly sharp rise of 220,000 in October," Archer said, adding that he expected the jobless rate to "move clearly above 12% during 2013."
While the jobless numbers exceeded 26 million for the first time across the full 27-member European Union, which includes Britain and Poland, the EU as a whole recorded an unchanged 10.7% unemployment rate.
Indeed, there were more jobless over the past year, according to Eurostat data, in the 17-nation eurozone – where the number of newly unemployed was 2.015 million, compared to 2.012 million for the EU.
Facing a bust property boom and riddled with bad debt in its banks, Spain recorded the highest unemployment rate of all the European countries – at 26.6%, worse even than bailed-out Greece.
Among under-25s, both countries saw unemployment rates hovering around 57%.
According to Eurostat figures seasonally-adjusted for comparative purposes, the November unemployment rate in key rival economies was 7.8% for the United States and 4.1% for Japan.
"2012 has been another very bad year for Europe in terms of unemployment and the deteriorating social situation," said European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Laszlo Andor.
Giving his annual report on employment trends, he said that "appropriate labour market reforms and improvements in the design of welfare systems" could make countries more resilient to economic shocks.
But with a north-south divide between Germany and similar satellite economies faring far better than Europe's southern Mediterranean rim, Andor said it was "unlikely that Europe will see much socio-economic improvement in 2013."
"A widening gap is emerging," Andor said, even between the north and south just of the eurozone.
The Commission concluded there was a divergence between "countries that seem trapped in a downward spiral of falling output, fast-rising unemployment and eroding disposable incomes, and those that have so far shown good or at least some resilience."
Southern and peripheral countries whose governments and companies face much higher interest rates or no access to market financing will continue to struggle, the Commission said, citing an over-allocation of lending during the construction boom of the last decade.