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Europe – Youth unemployment at its highest

16 February 2011

The unemployment rate in the European Union (EU) has remained unchanged at 9.6% since February 2010 according to the latest Labour Market Factsheet published by the European Commission.

The year-on-year rise, which has been narrowing since the autumn 2009, closed to 0.1 percentage points (pps) in December 2010, even though the unemployment rate is still +2.9 pps above the low of 6.7% in spring 2008. The rate is still higher than a year ago in all but nine member states and around 15% to 20% in Spain and the Baltic States, although the year-on-year rises have clearly been diminishing.

Underlying unemployment in the EU decreased by -19,000 in December, thanks to a steep fall in female unemployment (down by -42,000) while male unemployment still increased by +24,000.

Unemployment rate remains higher than a year ago in all but nine member states

Unemployment had declined or stabilised in the majority of Member States by December, with the rate remaining stable or down on the previous month in 17 countries, while in the other member states the rate of increase in unemployment had eased.

Among the larger member states, the unemployment rate rose in Poland (by +0.1 pps). On the other hand, the unemployment rate decreased by -0.2 pps in Spain, still posting the EU's highest unemployment rate, and remained stable in December in the other four larger member states. In particular, unemployment in Germany, where short-time working has stabilised since August 2010, is at its lowest level since September 1992 and registered unemployment fell more than expected in January.

Youth unemployment still rising

The labour market for young people in the EU is still depressed and continues to show worrying developments: youth unemployment has started picking up again in November after a decrease from May to August and it is now +80,000 higher than in December 2009. The youth unemployment rate in November has reached its highest level since the beginning of the crisis at 21% in the EU and remained stable in December, still up +0.5 pps on December 2009 and up +6.3 pps on March 2008.

Peaks were seen in Spain (42.8%, +3.3 pps on December 2009), Slovakia (37.3%, +5.1 pps), Ireland (29.1%, +0.9 pps), Italy (29%, +2.4 pps), Hungary (28.4%, +0.6 pps), Poland (25.7%, +3 pps) and the Baltic States (around 30%).

Conversely, Germany and Belgium have witnessed significant falls in youth unemployment figures over the period. The job crisis has hit young people hard: at 5.4 million, youth unemployment is still up by nearly +35% (or 1.4 million) compared to the low of spring 2008. Young graduates have recently encountered huge difficulties to find a job: in the UK for instance, one in five university leavers who entered the labour market failed to find a job last year, as graduate unemployment reached its highest level since 1995 and nearly doubled during the crisis.

Employment and unemployment expectations stable

After the most recent marked decline in August, fears of unemployment kept broadly stable, 41 points below the peak recorded in March 2009. In January, employment expectations slightly improved in industry, construction, services and retail sectors, but persist to be negative in the construction sector. Expectations are highest in the financial sector where they declined slightly in January.

Online and temporary labour demand increasing

According to the Monster Employment Index, online job demand in the EU increased by +25% in January, the most rapid pace seen during the current cycle. Real estate led monthly online demand followed by management and consulting and healthcare and social work while public sector opportunities decrease. Recent data from Eurociett, covering October/December, continue to show an improvement in workplace activity via temporary work agencies. The number of hours invoiced exceeds the levels observed a year earlier in all countries reviewed ranging from 7% in the Netherlands, 12.3% in Belgium, 18% in France and 27.1% in Italy, to 35.2% in Germany and 47.4% in Poland. In the EU, hours invoiced increased by 23% over the year.

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