Unemployment marches higher in Europe amid pandemic

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Unemployment rose for a fifth straight month in Europe in August amid concern that extensive government support programmes won’t be able keep many businesses hit by coronavirus restrictions afloat forever.

The jobless rate rose to 8.1 per cent in the 19 countries that use the euro currency in August, up from 7.9 per cent in July, official statistics showed yesterday. Some 13.2 million people were unemployed and the number of those out of work rose by 251,000.

Economists expect a further rise as wage support programmes expire, while an increase in infections in many countries has increased fears that some restrictions on business interaction may have to be re-imposed.

Some 3.7 million people are still on furlough support programmes in Germany, the eurozone’s largest economy. The government has extended its emergency support through the end of 2021. National governments have poured in fiscal stimulus in the form of support loans and guarantees for business, while the European Central Bank has launched a EUR1.35 trillion (USD1.57 trillion) monetary stimulus in the form of regular bond purchases with newly printed money through at least the middle of next year. That has helped keep financial markets calm and credit flowing to businesses.

But all those measures have not halted a wave of corporate announcements of job reductions. Companies in the hardest hit industries such as airlines, tourism and restaurants may face a long period of substantially diminished demand for their services and are laying off workers. The coronavirus in some cases has also accelerated restructuring programmes that existed before the pandemic.