Eurozone unemployment rate hits new high in October

Unfinished commuter development in Madrid Unemployment is highest in Spain, partly due to the collapse in the property market

The eurozone's unemployment rate hit a new record high in October, while consumer price rises slowed sharply.

The jobless rate in the recessionary euro area rose to 11.7%. Inflation fell from 2.5% to 2.2% in November.

The data came as European Central Bank president Mario Draghi warned the euro would not emerge from its crisis until the second half of next year.

Government spending cuts would continue to hurt growth in the short-term, Mr Draghi said.

'Two-speed Europe'

The unemployment rate continued its steady rise, reaching 11.7% in October, up from 11.6% the month before and 10.4% a year ago.

A further 173,000 were out of work across the single currency area, bringing the total to 18.7 million.

Royal Bank of Scotland's Alberto Gallo: "The real issue is we're in a two-speed Europe"

The respective fortunes of northern and southern Europe diverged further. In Spain, the jobless rate rose to 26.2% from 25.8% the previous month, and in Italy it rose to 11.1% from 10.8%.

In contrast, unemployment in Germany held steady at 5.4% of the labour force, while in Austria it fell from 4.4% to just 4.3%.

"The real problem is that we have a two-speed Europe," economist Alberto Gallo of Royal Bank of Scotland told the BBC. "The biggest increase in unemployment is being driven by Italy and Spain.

"It is the same as you are seeing in financial markets," he explained. "The periphery [Spain and Italy] is the area where the banks are the least capitalised and need the most help, and the loan rates are the highest."

Spending hit

Data earlier this month showed that the eurozone had returned to a shallow recession in the three months to September, shrinking 0.1% during the quarter, following a 0.2% contraction the previous quarter.

Analysis

The eurozone is not the only part of the world in trouble.

Other data released on Friday showed growth slowing sharply in India and almost grinding to a halt in Brazil over the summer.

The performance of both countries - members of the Bric quad of big and fast-growing developing economies - fell well short of analysts' expectations.

Meanwhile Japan's heavily-indebted government has promised to borrow and spend even more to try to reinvigorate its dismal economy.

However, it has not all been bad news. The US economy appears to be on the rebound. On Thursday, its third-quarter growth was revised up as the housing market continues to show signs of life.

And recent data from China suggests that its economy has got past a recent soft patch, conveniently in time for the country's leadership transition.

The less competitive southern European economies, such as Spain and Italy - where governments have had to push through hefty spending cuts to get their borrowing under control, and crisis-struck banks have been cutting back their lending - have been in recession for over a year.

But the economies of Germany and France have also begun to weaken. Growth in the eurozone's two biggest economies came in at a disappointing 0.2%.

And more recent data suggests that both core eurozone economies have continued to skirt recession during the autumn.

Retail sales in Germany shrank 2.8% in October versus the previous month, down 0.8% from a year earlier, according to data released on Friday. Analysts had expected the country to record unchanged or moderately growing sales.

Meanwhile, separate data showed consumer spending in France shrank 0.2% in October versus the previous month, with spending on cars and other durable goods hardest hit.

Calmer markets

The sharp slowdown in the eurozone's consumer price index, to 2.2% in November, is also symptomatic of the weakness of spending.

However, the inflation data may also open the door to further measures by the ECB to boost the economy, as the index fell much closer to the central bank's 2% target rate.

"We have not yet emerged from the crisis," said Mr Draghi, speaking on pan-European radio. "The recovery of the eurozone will certainly begin in the second half of 2013.

"It's true that the budgetary consolidation entails a short-term contraction of economic activity, but this budgetary consolidation is inevitable."

Despite Mr Draghi's warning, and the generally poor state of the eurozone economy, markets have begun to take a far more sanguine view of the single currency's future.

Eurozone unemployment rates

Country October 2012 October 2011

Spain

26.2%

22.7%

Greece*

25.4%

18.4%

Portugal

16.3%

13.7%

Ireland

14.7%

15.0%

Eurozone

11.7%

10.4%

Italy

11.1%

8.8%

France

10.7%

9.7%

Netherlands

5.5%

4.8%

Germany

5.4%

5.7%

Austria

4.3%

4.3%

*Greece data for August of each year

Source: Eurostat

Italy's implicit cost of borrowing in the financial markets has fallen to its lowest level in two years, dropping to an implied interest rate of about 4.5% for 10-year debt.

Spain is able to borrow from markets at a 10-year rate of about 5.5% - far below the 7%-8% rate being demanded over the summer.

Mr Draghi conceded that the announcement of the ECB's willingness to buy up potentially unlimited amounts of government debt had boosted market confidence, even though no eurozone government had actually taken up the ECB's offer yet.

Banking union

However, borrowing costs in southern Europe still remain elevated compared with France and especially Germany. Berlin is currently able to borrow for 10 years at 1.37%, close to an all-time low.

"For now, what the ECB has done is to stop the bleeding," said Mr Gallo at RBS. "The central bank needs to close the gap in loan borrowing costs between the periphery and the core."

However, Mr Gallo said in his view the only way to do this was for the eurozone to move ahead with its "banking union" - which includes putting all eurozone banks under a common regulator, and creating a pan-eurozone scheme for guaranteeing bank accounts.

He was echoing the view of Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who on Friday said that creating a single deposit guarantee system should be Europe's top priority, more important than getting government budgets under control.

Fears over a possible government default or exit from the eurozone have made it much harder for Spanish and Italian banks to borrow, and put them at risk of a sudden exodus of depositors. This in turn has undermined the banks' role in supporting their respective national economies.

Eurozone GDP

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ConcordeTime for change

    BBC Future looks at the crashes that altered plane designs forever

Programmes

  • French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier HARDtalk Watch

    French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier on why he uses unconventional models in shows

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.