The Associated Press January 13, 2011, 8:25AM ET

Greek strikes continue amid spike in unemployment

Greek unemployment has risen to its highest level in at least six years, official data showed Thursday, as government austerity measures continued to prompt strikes and street protests.

The annual jobless rate jumped to 13.5 percent in October, the Greek Statistical Authority said, the highest rate since monthly figures were first released in 2004.

Some 192,000 people lost their jobs during the 12 months since October 2009, when the country's financial crisis became acute.

Greece, battling recession and rising unemployment, is struggling to cut costs and to meet targets set under the euro110 billion ($143 billion) bailout loan deal with European countries and the IMF.

The Socialist government came under further pressure in November when the EU added losses by Greek state companies to the national deficit figures.

In Athens, public transport workers defied a court order and went on a 24-hour strike against the austerity measures.

About 2,000 strikers marched to parliament in a rally that ended peacefully.

The protest, which halted most services, went ahead after the government announced plans to restructure loss-making state transport companies, using fare increases and involuntary staff transfers.

A court late Wednesday declared the strike illegal, but protesters leaders claimed they had not been formally notified of the decision when the walked-out started.

Tickets for public transport services will rise on Feb. 1 from the current price of euro1 ($1.30) to up to euro1.40 ($1.82), but the government said it was maintaining high subsidy levels to keep prices low.

"We have the cheapest public transport in Europe," deputy transport minister Spyros Vouyias told parliament.


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