EU unemployment stable but still high and youth unemployment rising

Press Releases

2 May 2012

Unemployment figures released today by the EU's statistical office Eurostat show stable but high average levels of unemployment in the EU.

  • The average seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in the EU 27 was 10.2% in March 2012, which is no change on the rate recorded for February 2012. However, the March 2012 rate represents a significant year-on-year increase when compared with the March 2011 rate of 9.4%.
  • In the euro area (17 EU countries), the March 2012 rate was 10.9%, a slight increase compared with 10.8% in February 2012 and significantly higher than the March 2011 rate of 9.9%.
  • Unemployment rates in individual EU Member States continue to vary significantly, ranging from 4.0% in Austria (where the trend is downwards) and 5.0% in the Netherlands, to 24.1% in Spain, where unemployment is continuing to rise sharply.
  • Overall, 19 Member States experienced an increase in the rate of unemployment over the year to March 2012, although unemployment fell in eight.
  • Average rates of youth unemployment are still rising, to 22.6% in the EU27 in March 2012, compared with 22.5% in February 2012 and 21% in March 2011.

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

‘Average youth unemployment is still rising in the EU as a whole, with rates in Spain and Greece remaining over 50%. Year-on-year trends are generally rising in the majority of Member States for which Eurostat has data - youth unemployment rose in 14 Member States, declined in six and was stable in one in the year to March 2012. However, looking at the monthly data, the upward trend is less pronounced in the individual Member States for which Eurostat has data, with youth unemployment levels continuing to rise in eight Member States, but falling in 11 and remaining stable in two. It is, however, too early to tell whether this trend will be borne out in longer-term data, as the European economy continues to grapple with the impact of the economic crisis.

‘Looking at the gender aspects of unemployment, the female unemployment rate is slightly above the rate for men, at 10.3% in the EU27 in March 2012, compared with 10.2% for men. However, the increase in the unemployment rate over the past year has been steeper in the case of men - nine percentage points in the year to March 2012, compared with seven percentage points in the case of women. This could reflect the fact that the crisis is continuing to affect male-dominated areas of the labour market, such as construction and manufacturing.’


About Andrea

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. Andrea has undertaken a number of European labour market research projects.

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.