French, Greek Unemployment Rise

 

The highest jobless rate in France in a decade and a record unemployment rate in Greece underscored the real economic impact the debt crisis is having on Europe’s big and small economies alike.

The unemployment rate in France rose to 9.6% in the three months through March, the highest rate since 1999 and up from 9.3% in the final quarter of last year, national statistics agency Insee said Thursday.

France, the euro zone’s second-largest economy, is fighting to boost economic growth in a bid to balance out austerity measures and the damaging effects on confidence of the debt crisis, which has already pushed Greece, Ireland and Portugal into bailouts and now threatens Spain.

[EUECON]

French President François Hollande said Thursday that more stability is needed in the global economy as well as economic expansion.

“We must have more growth but to have more growth we must also have more stability,” said Mr. Hollande, who came to power in May on a pledge to champion growth as well as fiscal discipline to overcome the economic crisis. He was speaking after a meeting in Paris with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Economists in a poll last week had expected unemployment in France to rise less strongly, to 9.5%.

Including overseas territories, unemployment reached 10%, Insee said.

The figure for the fourth quarter of 2011 was cut to 9.3% from 9.4% previously, it said.

Data for Greece showed unemployment in the crisis-stricken country rose to a record high in March, with the proportion of young people without jobs topping 50% and women facing a higher rate of joblessness than men, Elstat, the country’s statistics agency, said Thursday.

The number of people without jobs climbed to 1.075 million, or 21.9% of the workforce, from a revised 21.4% in February, according to seasonally adjusted data. The March level was the highest since the statistics agency started putting together monthly unemployment data in 2004.

Greece faces its second set of general elections in as many months on June 17 after a vote in May failed to result in a coalition government. Other European leaders have said the coming vote is crucial for Greece’s future in the euro zone and have called on Greeks to back parties that will proceed with austerity measures.

Greece is now in its fifth year of a recession marked by increasing business bankruptcies and exacerbated by tough austerity measures aimed at narrowing the government’s budget gap.

Young people remain the hardest hit by the recession, with a staggering 52.8% of those aged between 15 and 24 years old without a job in March, a sharp increase from the 42% recorded a year earlier, the Elstat data showed.

The proportion of women without work was 25.8% in March, compared with 19.2% a year earlier.

Before his trip to Europe, Mr. Harper said in a television interview that the euro zone is running out of time to solve its crisis and endangering the global economy in the process. The Canadian leader said Europe mustn’t wait for the results of the Greek elections before detailing its longer-term plans.

Greek conservatives only have a slight lead in the polls over the antiausterity Syriza party ahead of the country’s fresh round of elections on June 17. Syriza has said it wouldn’t adhere to the terms of Greece’s bailout, a move that would put the country at risk of default and an exit from the euro.

More gloomy jobless data came from Ireland, where the unemployment rate rose in the first quarter to the highest level since the start of the country’s banking debt crisis in 2007.

The jobless rate rose to 14.8% from 14.1% in the same quarter a year earlier and compares with a rate of about 4.5% in 2007, the Central Statistics Office said, citing its national household survey.

The CSO also said it had recalculated Ireland’s unemployment rate in May at 14.7%, up from the 14.3% previously reported.

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