The May eurozone unemployment rate was up from 9.3 per cent in April and 7.4 per cent in May 2008.

'Rates to rise'

Spain was shown to have the biggest jobless rate among eurozone nations, with 18.7 per cent unemployment.

The lowest unemployment rate was in the Netherlands, where only 3.2 per cent of the working population were without a job in May.

Meanwhile, in the 27-nation EU, the unemployment rate rose to 8.9 per cent in May, hitting the highest level since June 2005.

Eurostat estimated that in total 21.5 million people were  unemployed across the EU in May, of which 15 million were in the euro area.

Jennifer McKeown from Capital Economics, a research company, said the worst was not over for the job market.

"Survey measures of hiring intentions point to a further easing in the rate of job cuts to come," she said.

"But given that labour market developments tend to lag behind those in the wider economy, unemployment almost certainly has considerably further to rise. We expect the rate to reach about 12 per cent next year."