Page last updated at 09:51 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 10:51 UK

Euro unemployment at decade high

People queueing at a job centre in Madrid
Spain's unemployment rate of 18.1% is the highest in the EU

Unemployment in the 16 countries using the euro increased in April to its highest level in nearly ten years, official data has shown.

The unemployment rate in the eurozone rose to 9.2% from 8.9% in March, the highest rate since September 1999, the Eurostat data agency said.

Unemployment in the wider 27-member European Union (EU) rose to 8.6% in April from 8.4% the previous month.

Eurostat estimates that 20.8m people in the EU were unemployed in April.

This was an increase of 556,000 from March's figure.

The number of people out of work in the eurozone increased by 396,000 to 14.58m.

Spain - 18.1%
Latvia - 17.4%
Lithuania - 16.8%
Netherlands - 3.0%
Austria - 4.2%
Cyprus - 5.4%
Source: Eurostat

In April, Spain had the highest unemployment rate of any country in the EU at 18.1%, followed by Latvia (17.4%) and Lithuania (16.85).

However, separate data from the Spanish Labour Ministry for May showed the number of people filing claims for unemployment benefits in Spain fell slightly after 14 months of steady increases.

The decline of 24,741 left the jobless total at 3,620,139.

Rises across Europe

Unemployment increased in 25 out of the 27 EU member states. Romania and Greece were the only countries which saw their unemployment rates fall.

In Germany, Europe's biggest economy, unemployment rose to 7.7% from 7.6% in March.


And in France, the second-biggest, unemployment increased to 8.9% from 8.8% a month earlier.

Even if signs of economic recovery begin to emerge, economists warned that unemployment is a lagging indicator.

"It will be some time before any improvement in economic activity feeds through to help the jobs outlook," said Howard Archer from IHS Global Insight.

"Furthermore, we suspect that economic activity will remain too weak to actually generate jobs overall until well into 2010.

"Deep and extended economic contraction, depressed business confidence and deteriorating profitability are currently increasingly feeding through to push unemployment up sharply across the eurozone."

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