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Europe - Unemployment falls strongest in countries with already low unemployment

13 June 2011

In April 2011, the unemployment rate at the European Union (EU) level slightly eased by -0.1 pp to 9.4 %, after remaining stable for four months at 9.5 %. On the other hand, in the Euro area, it remained unchanged in April at 9.9 %. The EU's overall unemployment seems to point to a steady, though very slow decrease after peaking at 9.7 % in October 2010, according to the latest analysis published by the European Commission (EC).

Over the year to April 2011, the improvement at EU level (down by -0.3 pp) is explained by decreasing unemployment rates in seventeen members states that offset the increases recorded in nine, with changes ranging from -5.0 pps in Estonia to +3.9 pps in Greece.

Among high-unemployment Member States, only Estonia and Latvia have recorded a significant improvement, as their unemployment rates dropped respectively by -5.0 pps and -2.9 pps over the year. In general, member states with a lower than average unemployment rate are benefiting most from the recovery. Germany recorded a considerable fall of unemployment over the year (-480,000 persons), it also decreased in Italy (-165,000), France and the UK (approximately -100,000), Sweden (-80,000), Poland (-62,000), the Czech Republic (-37,000) and in the Benelux countries.

On the other hand, unemployment is showing stubbornness in several countries with an already higher than average unemployment rate. Over the year to April 2011, the number of unemployed has increased in Spain (+200,000), in Greece (+200,000), in Portugal (+90,000) and in Bulgaria (+40,000). Spain still records the highest unemployment rate among member states (20.7%), with yet another +0.3 pp increase over the last four months.

The overall number of unemployed in the EU continued to slowly shrink in April 2011, down by -165,000 on March. This is the sixth consecutive month of decline. Men are benefiting more than women from this recent improvement. Over the year to April 2011, the number of unemployed men fell by -671,000, while it went down by -31,000 for women. Consequently, even if the absolute number of unemployed men is still above the number of unemployed women, in April 2011, the male unemployment rate was 9.3 %, against 9.5 % for women.

The youth unemployment rate decreased to 20.3 % in April 2011, down by -0.2 percentage points (pp) in March 2011 and by -0.9 pp over the year. This corresponds to a decrease of -93,000 unemployed aged less than 25 in March 2011 and of -388,000 in April 2010. The youth unemployment rate stays markedly higher than that for the prime age group as the unemployment rate for the 25 to 74 was 'only' 8.1 % in April 2011. Across the member states the gap ranges from 2 pps in Germany (5.9 % vs 7.9 %) to 25.9 pps in Spain (18.5 % vs 44.4 %).

Over the year the youth unemployment rate has recorded an increase higher than 2 pps in nine member states, in particular in Greece (+ 8.2 pps to 36.1 %), Portugal and Bulgaria (more than 5 pps). On the other hand, the youth unemployment rate has recorded a decrease higher than 2 pps in six countries, in particular in Estonia (-19.3 pps to 20.4 %), Latvia (-9.7 pps to 31 %), Sweden (-5.4 pps to 22 %), Germany and the Netherlands (respectively -2.7 pps and -2.1 pps to 7.9 % and 6.9 %).

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