BRUSSELS (AFP) – The eurozone’s unemployment rate fell to a historic low in December, official figures showed yesterday, as hiring in Europe rode a solid recovery and shrugged off the explosive spread of the Omicron variant.
The seasonally-adjusted jobless rate stood at seven per cent last month, the lowest level since the official Eurostat statistics agency began its record in April 1998.
In the 27-member European Union (EU), which includes countries such as Poland not in the single currency bloc, unemployment fell to 6.4 per cent in December, also a low since records began.
“The eurozone ended 2021 – the year after the worst recession since WW2 – with its lowest ever unemployment rate. A testimony to the success of our collective response to this crisis,” said the EU economics affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni.
Prior to December, the lowest unemployment rates for both the 19 countries sharing the single currency and the EU-27 were in March 2020, at 7.2 per cent and 6.5 per cent, respectively.
Eurostat said that some 13.6 million people were unemployed in the EU in December, including 11.5 million in the eurozone.
The improvement in the job picture year-on-year was significant, with a drop from 7.5 per cent in the eurozone, or 1.8 million fewer people seeking work.
The positive job picture is a marked difference from the eurozone debt crisis, in which the bloc struggled for years to bring unemployment down to pre-crisis levels.
EU officials attribute the difference to a radical change in approach in which the EU jointly agreed on an unprecedented spending push at the worst of the crisis, instead of the austerity path chosen in 2010-15.