EU unemployment rate continues to rise

Press Releases

1 Jul 2013

The latest EU unemployment figures show that the overall rate of unemployment in the Eurozone in May 2013 is now 12.1%, up from 12.0% in April 2013 and a significant increase on the May 2012 figure of 11.3%. In the EU27, the May 2013 figure is 10.9%, up from the 10.4% recorded in May 2012.

Eurostat estimates that over 26.4 million people are out of work in the EU, of which over 19 million are in the Eurozone area. The unemployment rate rose over the past year in 17 EU Member States and fell in ten.

The gap between different EU Member States in terms of labour market performance continues to widen, with Greece and Spain recording the highest rates of unemployment (26.8% in Greece according to March 2013 figures, and 26.9% in Spain). The rate of unemployment is also increasing fastest in these countries, although Cyprus has seen a jump in its unemployment figures, from 11.4% to 16.3% between May 2012 and 2013. The Baltic States, by contrast, appear to be performing better in labour market terms – in Latvia, the rate of unemployment fell from 15.5% to 12.4% between the first quarters of 2012 and 2013, and in Estonia, the rate fell from 10.0% in April 2012 to 8.3% in April 2013. However, emigration from Baltic States may play a part in explaining these figures.

At the other end of the scale, the unemployment rate is lowest in Austria, at 4.7%, Germany, at 5.3% and Luxembourg, at 5.7%.

Andrea Broughton, Principal Research Fellow at the Istitute for Employment Studies, comments:

‘In terms of youth unemployment, which remains Europe’s biggest labour market headache, the latest figures show a small month-on-month decrease, although the rate is still much higher than it was a year ago. The EU27 rate of youth unemployment was 23.0% in May 2013, a slight fall compared with the April 2013 figure of 23.2%. The Eurozone figure was 23.8%, compared with 23.9% in April 2013. However, these figures are still higher than the 22.8% and 23.0% respectively, recorded in May 2012, and still means that across the EU, almost one in four young people who are in the labour market do not have a job. This is likely to have serious social and labour market consequences.

‘In Greece, which has been experiencing severely high levels of youth unemployment for some time, the March 2013 figure (the most recent figure for Greece) was 59.2%, down slightly on the February 2013 figure of 62.2%. It is probably too early to say whether the trend is now downwards, and it should be remembered that well over half of young people under 25 in Greece who want to be active in the labour market still do not have a job. Spain is not far behind, with a rate of 56.5%. Portugal and Italy also have high youth unemployment rates, of 42.1% and 38.5% respectively.

‘The countries that are most successful in ensuring that young people are in employment are Germany (where the youth unemployment rate is 7.6%), Austria (8.7%) and the Netherlands (10.6%). EU policymakers are attempting to address the crisis in youth unemployment with schemes such as the Youth Guarantee. It would seem that much could be learned from countries such as Germany and Austria, which have managed to keep overall unemployment and youth unemployment down to manageable levels.’


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About IES

The Institute for Employment Studies is the UK’s leading independent, not-for-profit centre for research and evidence-based consultancy on employment, the labour market, and HR policy and practice.

About Andrea Broughton

Andrea joined IES in 2006 and has over 20 years' experience of research and writing in the areas of employment relations and industrial relations, specialising in international comparative research. Specific areas of interest include workplace-level industrial relations, European social dialogue, employee involvement, restructuring and change management, health and wellbeing issues and work-life balance issues.