Italy and Cyprus are among a handful of countries who have bucked the EU’s improving unemployment trend over the last year, new figures reveal.
The EU’s unemployment rate dropped 0.4 percent to 25.7 million in the year to March 2014, according to Eurostat. In Eurozone countries it was 11.8 percent in March, unchanged so far in 2014, and down 0.2 percent from a year ago.
The statistics, which also revealed youth unemployment – those under 25 – dropped 0.7 percent to 5.3m in the 12 months to March 2014, come amid anti-austerity protests across Europe to mark International Workers’ Day.
Eurostat’s figures also show Italy, Cyprus, Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland saw both unemployment and youth unemployment rise.
Italy’s out-of-work rate jumped 0.7 percent to 3.25m in the year to March 2014. But youth unemployment was worst hit, leaping 3.1 percent to 683,000.
Hungary is among the success stories – its unemployment plummeted 3.3 percent to 355,000 in February 2014, the latest month for which figures were available.
Portugal and Ireland, who have both received bailouts, saw unemployment tumble by 2.2 percent and 1.9 percent respectively in the year to March 2014.
László Andor, EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, called for “courageous monetary and fiscal policies”.