Europe’s leaders travel to Brussels on Thursday, hoping to chart the continent’s way back to growth as figures show unemployment in the 17-country eurozone has spiked to its highest level since the euro was established in 1999.
While the two-day summit is for once taking place amid relative calm on financial markets, Europe’s population is only starting to feel the full impact of the massive budget cuts and economic uncertainty of the past three years.
New figures showed that unemployment in the 17-country eurozone hit 10.7 percent in January — the highest level since the currency union launched in 1999. The situation in the 27-country European Union is not looking much better, with unemployment reaching 10.1 percent in the first month of the year.
Policymakers across Europe have made spurring growth and jobs their new mantra, but so far their proclamations have yielded few results. Many economists want governments to stop slashing budgets as the continent heads into another recession, warning that more cuts will further destabilize the economy and make the debt situation even worse.
“This crisis and some remedies puts social cohesion at stake. It can also damage the European idea itself,” said EU President Herman Van Rompuy. “That is why we have to tackle inequalities and poverty.” …
Eurostat estimates that 24.325 million men and women in the EU-27, of whom 16.925 million were in the euro area (EA-17), were unemployed in January 2012. Compared with December 2011, the number of persons unemployed increased by 191 000 in the EU-27 and by 185 000 in the euro area. Compared with January 2011, unemployment increased by 1.488 000 in the EU-27 and by 1.221 000 in the euro area.