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European Union Reports Highest Unemployment Rates Ever For Eurozone

In Badalona, Spain, people waited outside an employment office last summer.
Albert Gea
Reuters /Landov
In Badalona, Spain, people waited outside an employment office last summer.

In the European Union, unemployment rates in the region that uses the euro currency are at their highest ever, as a returned recession, falling income levels and persistent debt concerns trouble the region's economy, as its latest statistics show.

After nearly five years of economic crises, the European Union is also seeing more divergence between its member nations, particularly in the north, where economies have resilience, as opposed to the south, where unemployment rates are an average of more than 7 points higher.

From Brussels, Teri Schultz filed this report for our Newscast desk:

"More Europeans are out of work now in the eurozone — almost 11.8 percent — than in the entire two-decade history of the common currency."

"Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Lazlo Andor says joblessness plus cutbacks in governments' social spending mean poverty is on the rise."

"'After a few years of persistent crisis, most national welfare systems have lost much of their ability to protect household incomes against the effects of the crisis,'" he says.

"Andor says the economic divide is growing between EU nations north and south. Spain has the highest unemployment, at 26.6 percent of the working-age population. Austria has the lowest, at 4.5 percent. Andor says he hopes this year's a turning point."

That's quite a downward turn from early 2008, when the eurozone's unemployment rate hovered around 7.2 percent. The most recent statistics reflect the situation in November of 2012.

In its coverage of the EU report, the German newspaper Die Welt used a headline that stated bluntly (and roughly translated here), "The social structure in Europe is breaking apart."

Here's some analysis from BBC Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker:

"The biggest rises, in percentage terms, were in countries at the centre of the eurozone financial crisis - Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Portugal. One striking exception to that pattern was the Republic of Ireland where unemployment fell.

"The general trend however remains upwards and it makes it even harder for the governments concerned to collect the taxes they need to stabilise their debts."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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