Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s jobless rate fell last month even amid a government austerity drive aimed at shielding the country from Europe’s debt crisis.
The jobless rate dropped to 7.9 percent from 8 percent in July, Rome-based national statistics institute Istat said in a preliminary estimate today. The rate declined to 8 percent in the second quarter from a revised 8.1 percent in the previous three-month period. Economists had predicted the rate would be unchanged in August, the median forecast by five economists in a Bloomberg News survey showed.
Italian business confidence fell to the lowest in almost two years this month amid concern that austerity and the debt crisis will hurt growth. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government passed a 54 billion-euro ($73 billion) package of spending cuts and tax increases in August to convince the European Central Bank to buy Italian bonds after the nation’s borrowing costs surged to euro-era records. The plan also aims to ease firing rules to encourage companies to take on workers.
Joblessness among those between ages 15 and 24 rose to 27.6 percent in August from 27.5 percent in the previous month, Istat said. The institute originally reported a jobless rate of 8.2 percent in the first quarter.
--With assistance from Sonia Sirletti in Milan. Editors: Jeffrey Donovan, Andrew Davis
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