Eurozone unemployment has hit its highest since before the euro was introduced at 16.5 million.
The grim figures also reveal a widening gap between the weakest and strongest economies.
Austerity measures and spending cuts increased layoff in places like Greece, where the unemployment rate is closing in on 20 percent, and Spain which has the worst figures in the region at almost 23 percent in December.
One Madrid jobseeker voiced the desperation felt in the job centres: “I’ve been unemployed since July 2010. I think I’m going to leave Spain and go to the United States because there are no jobs here. We’re all unemployed in my family and there’s not much money at home, and no prospects.”
Among the 17 countries sharing the single currency, the unemployment rate was 10.4 percent of the working population in December adjusted for seasonal factors.
By contrast Germany’s rate fell to 6.8 percent in December.
Without Germany’s economic expansion the figures for the bloc would be much worse.
But German exports could suffer from the expected mild recession this year in the eurozone.
The German Labour Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said the latest figures reflect the effect of the country’s economy picking up last year.
She added: “What you also see regardless of sectors and regions is that companies have difficulties in recruiting the right person for a job.”
The data were released one day after EU leaders, at their latest summit, promised to focus on creating millions of new jobs to try to kickstart Europe’s weak economy.
For the entire 27 nation European Union, the jobless total was 9.9 percent in December.
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