Bloomberg News

Greek Jobless Rate Breached 16 Percent for First Time in March

June 08, 2011

June 8 (Bloomberg) -- Greece’s unemployment rate exceeded 16 percent in March, extending a record high as the nation’s economy remained mired in the third year of a recession.

The jobless rate rose to 16.2 percent from 15.9 percent in February, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said today in an e- mailed statement in Athens. That was the highest since Greece began releasing monthly unemployment data in 2004. Economists expected a rate of 16 percent, according to the median of three estimates in a Bloomberg News survey.

Greece’s jobless rate has risen every month since July, after Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government cut wages and pensions and increased taxes to narrow a budget deficit that reached 15.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2009. The measures were conditions of a 110 billion-euro ($161 billion) bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund and have deepened a recession now in its third year.

Support for Papandreou’s measures has dropped in Greece as unions call strikes and an unaffiliated protest movement gathers every evening outside parliament in central Athens. Opposition has also strengthened within his socialist Pasok party as he tries to push through a 78 billion-euro package of new austerity cuts and asset sales to secure additional aid for the country.

Last year’s rescue failed to stem an investor exodus from Greek bonds as a 4.4 percent economic contraction made it harder for the government to collect taxes and meet deficit-reduction goals. Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who also chairs a group of euro-region finance ministers, said on June 3 he expects the group to approve additional financing for Greece.

Total Jobless

The total number of jobless was 811,340 in March, compared with 787,229 in February and 578,723 a year earlier. The unemployment rate for those under age 24 was 42.5 percent. The overall jobless rate was worst in the south Aegean, which includes the vacation islands of Mykonos and Santorini, where it was 30.4 percent.

Industrial production in April fell 11 percent from a year earlier, compared with an 8 percent decline the previous month, a separate statistics agency report showed today. The biggest decreases were in electricity production, which fell 12.2 percent, and manufacturing, which declined 11.3 percent.

The agency will release final first-quarter economic growth figures tomorrow. Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, published preliminary data on May 13 showing that Greek gross domestic product expanded 0.8 percent in the first quarter. The European Commission forecasts Greece’s economy will shrink 3.5 percent this year.

--With assistance from Maria Petrakis in Athens. Editors: Jeffrey Donovan, Leon Mangasarian

To contact the reporter on this story: Marcus Bensasson in Athens at mbensasson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net.


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