Oof: Eurozone's unemployment rate unchanged at record high

A lot of the headlines surrounding the eurozone’s latest round of economic data are about the hopeful signs that analysts insist they’re seeing that indicate that the collective economy is making slow but steady progress in crawling its way out of recession territory — retail spending rose by one percent in November, for instance, while Ireland returned to the bond market after their recent exit from their bailout — but the 17-member bloc’s unemployment in November was unmoved from the more than twelve percent rate they have been holding for going on eight months now. But hey, at least unemployment didn’t get worse — that’s something, right? Via the NYT:

The unemployment rate in the euro zone stood at 12.1 percent, a stubbornly high level that has held since April, Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, reported on Wednesday.

As the sovereign debt crisis seized the region and economic malaise set in, the jobless rose from just under 10 percent in early 2011 to the current record level. The November rate was in line with economists’ expectations.

For the full European Union, made up of 28 member states, the jobless rate was unchanged at 10.9 percent. Eurostat estimated that 26.6 million people across Europe were unemployed and seeking work, 19,000 more than in October. …

Among the lowest unemployment rates in Europe were Austria’s 4.8 percent and Germany’s 5.2 percent. Greece showed the highest rate, 27.4 percent, though it is several months behind in its reporting.

But if there are positive signs of growth and output amid an otherwise sluggish labor market, they certainly aren’t coming from the bloc’s lagging Socialist epicenter, via Bloomberg:

While Europe’s economic recovery is slowly gaining traction, France is sliding backwards.

That’s the inescapable conclusion about newly reported data on business activity, including a survey released today by Markit Economics showing that France’s service-sector output contracted sharply in December, to a six-month low. An earlier report showed a steep drop in French manufacturing activity during December as well. …

Among the Continent’s four biggest economies, France is the only one where businesses reported declines in output and in new orders. “France now stands out as the sick man of Europe, because so many other countries have moved ahead,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London, tells Bloomberg Television. “What France needs is labor-market reform—structural reform.”

Funnily enough, French President Hollande’s regime seems to be catching on to the fact that they do indeed need labor-market and structural reform rather than trifling with more damaging tax hikes, and announced after the New Year that Hollande is planning a new (but as-yet vague) approach to implement some market-driven reforms and tax cuts — but I think the rest of Europe will believe that when they see it.