Europe's jobs crisis comes into sharper relief

Sun May 5, 2013 3:06pm EDT
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By Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) - Europe's policymakers are starting to recognize chronic unemployment as a crisis in its own right, rather than something that will resolve itself when the economy improves.

Compared with the United States, where the labor market is a key determinant of economic policy, European authorities have been more passive in their approach to jobs for many years.

But the depth of the jobless epidemic, especially in euro zone countries like Spain and Italy, means their rhetoric is at least changing.

Friday's spring economic forecast from the European Commission was a case in point.

Invoking European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's pledge to protect the euro, the European Union's Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said the EU would do "whatever it takes" to overcome the jobless crisis.

In previous forecasts, Rehn mentioned reducing unemployment mainly as something that would only come further down the line, after the completion of painful reforms.

Jobs data from across the Atlantic, also released on Friday, contrasted starkly. The United States added 165,000 non-farm jobs in April, while the unemployment rate there fell to 7.6 percent, its lowest since December 2008.

Business surveys on Monday will reveal more about the pace of job losses in the euro zone, where the jobless rate hit a new record 12.1 percent in March, meaning more than 19 million euro zone citizens are out of work.   Continued...

People wait for an employment office to open in Badalona, near Barcelona, April 25, 2013. The stickers on the wall read, "Unemployment". REUTERS/Albert Gea