Eurozone unemployment hits a record 12 percent

Yikes. The end of 2012 marked a collective economic contraction in the eurozone for the fifth straight quarter, and the 17-member currency bloc is well on track to logging their sixth:

Official figures for first-quarter economic activity won’t be released until May 15, but the monthly Eurocoin measure of euro-zone output released Friday signaled a contraction for March, having earlier signaled declines in activity in January and February.

The measure, which is compiled by London-based Center for Economic Policy Research and the Bank of Italy, also showed a drop in gross domestic product in each of the three months of the fourth quarter, an indication borne out later when official data showed the euro-zone economy shrank by 0.6%.

That dreary outlook is further corroborated by the revised January and today’s February jobs reports, which reported eurozone unemployment coming in at a whopping 12 percent — the highest figure since the currency was first launched in 1999.

The number of people unemployed in the 17 member states rose by 33,000 during [February], to hit 19.07 million, the statistics agency Eurostat said. …

The jobless figures from Eurostat also showed that Spain’s unemployment rate hit 26.3% in February, while the rate in Portugal remained stable at 17.5%.

The lowest rates were recorded in Austria (4.8%) and Germany (5.4%), both unchanged from January. The overall unemployment rate for the eurozone in January was revised up from 11.9% to 12%. …

The fresh high in the unemployment rate “is further confirmation of the underlying weakness of the economy”, said Jennifer McKeown at Capital Economics.

“The rise in unemployment was the 22nd in a row, making this labour market downturn the most prolonged since the early 1990s.”

And this is all from February, before the Cyprus situation even got started — it’s relative impact might not be huge, but I’d doubt that that chaos and the accompanying market-jitters are going to do anything helpful for business confidence or the labor market, nor for the EU’s long-term stability.

These are just more reminders of what happens after repeated failures to substantively deal with brewing debt crises and practice fiscal responsibility — but hey, it’s cool, because “we don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt” and “for the next 10 years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place,” or something.

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