c.2013 New York Times News Service
c.2013 New York Times News Service
FRANKFURT — The number of people out of work in the eurozone rose slightly in September, according to official data published Thursday, showing that signs of renewed economic growth have not yet filtered through to the labor market.
The jobless rate was 12.2 percent last month, a record high and the same as the figure for August, which was revised upward. But the absolute number of jobless people in the 17 countries in the euro area rose by 60,000 from a total of about 19.5 million, according to Eurostat, the EU statistics agency in Luxembourg.
Another sign of weak growth came from the agency’s inflation report Thursday. It showed a slower than expected increase in the prices consumers and businesses pay for everything from food to energy to industrial goods, and could put pressure on European officials to further stimulate the region’s economy.
The eurozone unemployment rate had stopped rising in recent months, but Eurostat revised the figure reported for August to 12.2 percent from 12 percent.
“Businesses are not yet confident enough about the growth outlook to switch to creating jobs,” Marie Diron, an economist who advises the consulting firm Ernst & Young, said in an email.
The numbers come as a disappointment after recent data fed hopes that the eurozone was slowly emerging from a downturn that effectively began in 2009. Spain, one of the countries hit hardest by the eurozone debt crisis, returned to growth in the third quarter after a recession that lasted more than two years.
There also have been signs that the European car industry, a major source of jobs, is recovering from its worst sales in two decades. On Wednesday, the Italian carmaker Fiat reported its first increase in European sales since 2010.
But joblessness continued to rise in eurozone countries including France, Italy and Belgium, offsetting improvement in Germany and Portugal.
The highest jobless rate was in Greece, where it rose to 27.6 percent in July — the most recent month reported by that country’s statisticians — from 27.5 percent in June, Thursday’s data showed. The next highest was in Spain, where the unemployment rate was unchanged in September at 26.6 percent.
Unemployment was lowest in Austria, where the rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent, and Germany, where the rate fell to 5.2 percent from 5.3 percent.
The unemployment report came as Eurostat also reported that inflation in the eurozone had fallen to an estimated 0.7 percent in October from 1.1 percent in September.
Together, the reports could put pressure on the European Central Bank to take action when it meets next week. The ECB aims to maintain inflation at about 2 percent, a level considered healthy for growth. In theory, the decline in inflation means that the central bank should be obligated to cut the benchmark interest rate to 0.25 percent from its current level of 0.5 percent, already a record low.
“With inflation down below 1 percent, the ECB should start to worry about the risk of deflation,” Diron said. Deflation — a broad fall in prices — would be crippling for Europe, because national governments would collect less revenue from sales taxes and other sources and have even more trouble repaying their debts.
The eurozone as a whole emerged from recession in the second quarter, but the rebound was weak and output in the region was still lower than it was in 2008. Economists have been watching for any signs that the economic upswing has staying power.
Employment is typically one of the last components of the economy to respond in an upturn, because companies tend to wait to hire people until they are sure that business is really getting better. That is especially true in Europe, where regulations make it difficult to fire workers once they no longer are needed.
For all 28 countries in the EU, including those like Romania and Britain that are not in the eurozone, the unemployment rate was unchanged at 11 percent for the fourth month in a row.