The unemployment rate across the 16-nation eurozone hit 10% in February, the first time it has reached double figures since the euro was introduced. The jobless figures, from the Eurostat agency, showed large variations between nations in the eurozone. The unemployment rate was 19% in Spain, whereas in the Netherlands, the rate was just 4%. Separate figures showed eurozone inflation hit a 15-month high in March, rising to 1.5% from 0.9% in February. The inflation figure was higher than expected, with analysts blaming recent rises in energy prices for the increase. However, inflation still remains below the European Central Bank's inflation target of just below 2%, and analysts do not expect the bank to change its key interest rate from 1% for several months.
The rise in the unemployment rate is being seen as a further sign that the eurozone's recovery from recession remains slow. The Eurostat figures showed that 15.749 million people were unemployed in the eurozone during February, up 61,000 from the month before. Across the 27-nation European Union, the unemployment rate rose to 9.6% in February, from 9.5% in January. Separate figures from Germany on Wednesday indicated that unemployment there was falling.
Federal Labour Office figures showed the jobless total fell by 31,000 in March to a seasonally adjusted total of 3.382 million, with the unemployment rate dropping to 8% from 8.1%. "This... brings some hope that the much-needed recovery in German consumer spending could yet materialise," said Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics.