Disunited Europe: EU’s jobless rates puts spotlight on two-speed recovery

Julian Harris
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THE HUGE gap in economic fortunes between workers in different parts of Europe was laid bare yesterday, as new figures from Brussels showed unemployment rates stretching from 2.6 per cent in parts of Germany to a staggering 36.3 per cent in southern Spain.

Jobless rates also vary within the UK, but overall the labour market is faring relatively well. Eight British regions have an unemployment rate that is half the EU average, or lower.

The latest UK labour numbers are released this morning, with analysts at Societe Generale forecasting a drop in Britain’s unemployment rate from 7.2 per cent to 6.9 per cent in the three months to February.

The EU average is 10.8 per cent, Eurostat said yesterday.

One part of the West Midlands has a jobless rate of 12.9 per cent, while two regions in Yorkshire and the north east also have double-digit unemployment levels. But in most other areas the situation is far better, with many regions in sub-six per cent territory.

Parts of Portugal, Spain and Greece are still home to exceptionally high numbers of people who are seeking, but are unable to find, work. The five highest rates recorded across the whole continent were all Spanish regions – including Andalucia, on 36.3 per cent, and Extremadura, with 33.7 per cent.

The region with the sixth highest unemployment is Dytiki Makedonia in Greece, with Kentriki Makedonia in an unenviable eighth position, recording 30 per cent joblessness.

Youth unemployment is also astonishingly high in these two regions, measuring 70.6 per cent and 61.8 per cent respectively.

Andalucia and Extremadura in Spain also have stubbornly high levels of unemployment for young people aged 15 to 24, with rates of 66.1 per cent and 61.7 per cent.

All three of these southern European states have been rocked by the Eurozone crisis, yet economist Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said yesterday that separate trade data could bode well for their recovery.

“It is notable that all of the southern Eurozone periphery countries saw improved trade performances year-on-year over the first 10 months of 2013, particularly Italy and Spain, but also Portugal and Greece,” Archer said.

“It is encouraging that Spain, Portugal and Greece achieved export growth, which suggests that they are benefiting from improved competitiveness due to the reduced labour costs. Italian exports were essentially flat,” he added.

At the other end of the scale, youth unemployment in many regions of Germany is notably low, despite several years of turbulence in the Eurozone economy. Areas such as Tubingen, Oberbayern, Freiburg, and Schwaben have jobless levels of under five per cent for 15- to 24-year-olds.

Overall unemployment rates in these areas range between 2.6 per cent and 3.3 per cent.

Of the 49 EU regions that have unemployment rates at half the political union’s average or lower, 23 are in Germany, while eight are in neighbouring Austria.