Unemployment in Europe Stays High Amid Signs of Recovery

 Europe’s labor market remained stagnant in November, but analysts saw reason for hope elsewhere in the economy, including a surge in retail sales.

The unemployment rate in the euro zone stood at 12.1 percent, a stubbornly high level that has held since April, Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency, reported on Wednesday.

As the sovereign debt crisis seized the region and economic malaise set in, the jobless rose from just under 10 percent in early 2011 to the current record level. The November rate was in line with economists’ expectations.

For the full European Union, made up of 28 member states, the jobless rate was unchanged at 10.9 percent. Eurostat estimated that 26.6 million people across Europe were unemployed and seeking work, 19,000 more than in October.

More than five years after the implosion of Lehman Brothers in 2008 triggered a global financial collapse, Europe’s economy remains on fragile footing. Lending to businesses is contracting, and investment is weak.

There were indications, though, that the labor market might be lagging the broader economy.

There were 17 euro zone members in the period when the latest jobs data were tabulated. Eurostat will begin including information for the newest member, Latvia, which joined at the start of the year, in the January data.

Markets reacted calmly to the latest data, with the Euro Stoxx 50 index of euro zone blue-chip companies little changed.

The latest reports arrived on the eve of a policy meeting of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council. The bank surprised markets in November by cutting its benchmark interest rate to 0.25 percent from 0.5 percent, and economists say it is too soon to expect the bank to move on rates again this week.

But the jobless data, and the danger of deflation, will be important topics for discussion in Frankfurt. Consumer prices in the euro zone rose in December at an annual rate of only 0.8 percent, Eurostat reported on Tuesday — far below the E.C.B.’s inflation target of less than, but close to, 2 percent.

Source: The New York Times

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