Eurozone jobless hits record 12%
The eurozone economy has passed another bleak milestone with official figures showing unemployment across its 17 countries has hit 12% for the first time since the currency was launched in 1999.
Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said the rate in February was unchanged at the record high after January's figure was revised up to 12% from 11.9%. Spain and Greece have mass unemployment and many other countries are seeing their numbers swell to uncomfortably high levels.
A total of 19.07 million people were officially out of work in the eurozone in February, nearly two million more than the same month the year before. For the 27-country EU the unemployment rate was 10.9%.
"Such unacceptably high levels of unemployment are a tragedy for Europe and a signal of how serious a crisis some eurozone countries are now in," said EU Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor.
Even though the eurozone has achieved another disappointing record, for the positively-inclined there was some comfort to be found.
The 33,000 increase in the number of unemployed in February was the smallest monthly rise since April 2011 and way down on the 222,000 recorded in January. And Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has an unemployment rate of only 5.4%. That's even better than the U.S. rate of 7.7%.
However, the February figures came before the recent Cyprus crisis. The worry in the markets is that the chaos surrounding the country's bailout has reignited concerns over the euro and may have further dented confidence across the eurozone - a backdrop hardly conducive to job creation and economic recovery.
Certainly not in Cyprus. Unemployment is expected to climb as the economy contracts sharply.
Many economists are forecasting that the Cypriot economy will shrink 10% this year alone and see unemployment rise up to Greek and Spanish levels. In February, Cyprus' unemployment stood at 14%, compared to Spain's 26.3%.
Greece, which is in its sixth year of a savage recession, had an unemployment rate of 26.4% in December. Its figures are compiled on a different timeframe and the actual rate in February will probably be even higher.