Eurozone jobless rate reaches all-time high of 18.8 million

Unemployment in the eurozone hit another record high in November as the gap between more prosperous nations and struggling southern states yawned even further.

Official figures showed 18.8 million people out of work across the 17-member single currency bloc during the month, taking the unemployment rate to a new all-time high of 11.8 per cent.

While the jobless rate in the region's economic powerhouses, France and Germany, held steady at 11.1 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively, beleaguered Spain, Italy and Greece saw rising dole queues. Spanish unemployment now stands at a record 26.6 per cent, while Greece's reached 26 per cent. In Italy, 14 per cent of the workforce are looking for a job.

Tim Ohlenburg, an economist at the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said of the figures: "The overall level isn't the problem. It's the widening gulf between core and periphery. The labour market also exposes just how far the eurozone has moved away from the founding ideal of synchronised economic cycles."

The latest blow for the eurozone's labour market comes as pressure mounts on the European Central Bank to announce more stimulus at its policy meeting tomorrow, although further action is unlikely this month. The region is currently in the grip of a double-dip recession which most experts forecast will last throughout the first half of 2013.

Tom Rogers, the senior economic adviser to the Ernst & Young Eurozone Forecast, added: "We expect the unemployment rate to continue to rise from 11.8 per cent in the latest figures to 12.5 per cent by early 2014, as eurozone businesses and households remain wary, and governments continue to cut back. The numbers will also intensify the debate within the ECB about a possible cut in interest rates, which could include charging banks to deposit cash at the ECB."

The European Commission's monthly gauge of economic sentiment provided a glimmer of good news after rising for the second month in a row in December, reaching the highest level since July.

Martin van Vliet, an economist at ING Bank, said: "Despite the recent improvement, eurozone economic sentiment remains in recession territory. For now, however, it is encouraging to see that confidence is moving in the right direction."

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