Unemployment across the 17-nation eurozone hit a record high of 10.8 per cent in February, up from 10.7 per cent the  previous month, according to official figures.

The data released on Monday represent the highest level since the introduction of the single currency in 1999.

Official eurozone unemployment figures
  • Spain 23.6 per cent
  • Greece 21.0 per cent
  • France 10.0 per cent
  • Italy 9.3 per cent
  • Germany 5.7 per cent

 

The Eurostat data agency estimated that more than 17.1 million men and women were out of work in February after the ranks of the unemployed rose by 1.48 million compared with February 2011.

The eurozone's unemployment rate has risen for 10 consecutive months, as nations across the region enforce austerity measures to fend off the two-year-old debt crisis.

Eurozone leaders have vowed to install growth and job-creation strategies to counter a looming recession. They insist that budget cuts and structural reforms must continue to restore market confidence.

The unemployment rate rose in 18 European Union states and fell in eight others compared to a year ago.

Spain remained the nation with the highest rate at 23.6 per cent, followed by Greece at 21 per cent.

The states with the lowest rates were Austria at 4.2 per cent, the Netherlands at 4.9, Luxembourg at 5.2 per cent and Germany with a 5.7 per cent jobless rate.

Entering recession

The new unemployment record followed a separate report confirming that manufacturing activity in Europe shrank in February.

It is the eighth month in a row that the Purchasing Manager's Index has been below 50, which indicates contraction. France was particularly weak, with manufacturing activity falling to the lowest level in almost three years.

Economists agree that the eurozone area is probably in recession.

"It looks odds-on that eurozone GDP contracted again in the first quarter of 2012, thereby moving into recession," said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight.

"And the prospects for the second quarter of 2012 currently hardly look rosy," said Archer.

Source: Agencies