LONDON (AP) — Unemployment in the 16 countries that use the euro rose to 10 percent in November for the first time since the single currency was introduced at the start of 1999, official figures showed Friday.
Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said the 0.1 percentage point increase from October brought the unemployment rate to its highest level since August 1998.
Of the euro members, Spain has the highest unemployment rate at a massive 19.4 percent, while the Netherlands has the lowest at 3.9 percent. Such sharp divergences have reignited talk in some quarters that the single economic policy implied by the common currency is more appropriate for some countries than others.
In November 2008, the jobless rate was 8 percent in the eurozone as the recession took its toll.
Unemployment in the 27-country EU, which includes non-euro members such as Britain and Sweden, also rose 0.1 percent in November to 9.5 percent, its highest level since the data series began in January 2000.
In total, 22.9 million people were unemployed in the EU in November, with 15.7 million out of work in the eurozone.
Elsewhere, Eurostat confirmed that the eurozone economy grew by 0.4 percent in the third quarter, driven by a strong performance in Germany, and by 0.3 percent in the wider EU.
In the eurozone, the only countries in recession were Spain, Greece and Cyprus. In the wider EU, falling output was still evident in Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Romania as well as Britain.
The severity of the recession is evident in the annual comparisons — despite the modest third quarter growth, Eurostat said eurozone output was 4 percent lower than the year before, while the EU’s GDP was down 4.3 percent. However, both were improvements on the 4.8 percent and 5.0 percent contractions recorded in the second quarter.
Despite the modest third quarter improvement, growth is not expected to return to pre-crisis levels for a while yet, meaning the output lost during the recession will take years to be made up.
Friday’s data comes ahead of the European Central Bank’s latest policy statement due next Thursday.