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After a clear decrease between October 2010 and March 2011 (-2.4%, -555,000 persons) and an increase in the following three months (+1.0%, +222,000 persons), the number of people looking for work in the European Union (EU) stabilised in July and edged down slightly in August (-0.3%, 62,000 persons), to 22.8 million. However, the overall outlook remains gloomy according to the latest Monthly Labour Market Fact Sheet published by the European Commission (EC).
The apparent stability of the unemployment rate at 9.5% hides growing divergences between member states' labour markets. It stayed broadly flat in August in a group of member states posting a lower than EU average rate, after an improvement during the first half of 2011. In particular, the unemployment rate remained unchanged in Austria (3.7%), Germany (6%) and Denmark (7.1%). On the other hand, a recent deterioration was noted in France and in the UK, while unemployment continued to rise substantially in some peripheral EU member states, such as Spain, Greece and Ireland.
The situation of women is increasingly worrying as the female unemployment rate now stands clearly higher than that for men. Youth unemployment is also still a key concern: still more than one in five young people looking for work is unemployed across the EU and, although the average is no longer increasing, the youth unemployment rates broke new records in Spain and Greece, now well above the 40% mark.
In the current uncertain economic context, unemployment fears have worsened and employment prospects have deteriorated in the tertiary sector and in construction. Hiring activity remains positive with an increase in online labour demand, i.e. employer online recruitment activity, although the growth of the agency work sector has slowed down further. The outlook remains one of greater risks of deterioration and persistent divergences between member states.
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