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Portugal’s jobless rate hits record 17.7%
May 10, 2013
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LISBON: Portugal’s jobless rate rose to a euro-era record of 17.7 per cent in the three months through March as the country’s economy contracts for a third year.

The unemployment rate increased from 16.9 per cent in the fourth quarter and 14.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, the Lisbon-based National Statistics Institute said today in an e-mailed statement.

The number of unemployed workers from industries including manufacturing, construction and energy rose 3.6 per cent in the first quarter, while the increase in services was 4.1 per cent.

Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho is battling a deepening recession as he cuts spending and raises taxes to meet the terms of a 78 billion-euro ($103 billion) aid plan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Coelho proposed spending cuts on May 3 that include reducing the number of state workers as the government tries to meet budget deficit targets.

The government announced less ambitious targets on March 15 for narrowing its deficit as it predicted the economy will shrink twice as much as previously estimated this year.

It projects gross domestic product will contract 2.3 per cent before growing 0.6 per cent next year. Officials forecast the unemployment rate will climb to 18.2 per cent in 2013 and 18.5 per cent in 2014.

Ninth Quarter Economic growth has averaged less than 1 per cent a year for the past decade, placing Portugal among Europe’s weakest performers.

The economy shrank for a ninth quarter in the three months through December as consumer spending fell and exports dropped with the euro-area recession.

Construction companies are suffering from record-low demand for new projects after their order book fell 44 per cent in the last quarter of 2012 from a year earlier, Portugal’s Association of Public Works and Construction, or AECOPS, said in a Feb.4 statement.

The jobless rate in two of the eurozone’s crisis-hit members continues to rise, with youth unemployment surging in both Greece and Portugal.

Greece’s statistics agency Thursday said the unemployment rate rose to 27.0 per cent in February from a downwardly revised 26.7 per cent in January.

The increase in unemployment will disappoint policy makers in Greece and around the euro zone, who had hoped that the economy was beginning to stabilize.

Greece’s unemployment rate was the highest of any euro-zone nation and more than double the rate for the currency area as a whole, which was 12.0 per cent in February.


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