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    Uneven economic growth and high unemployment in Europe

    The latest figures published by Eurostat shows a mixed picture of the EU economy. On the positive side the seasonally adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) rose by 0.6% in the euro area comprised by 19 EU member states and by 0.5% in the EU as a whole (EU28) during the first quarter of 2016, compared with the previous quarter.

    With this release (29 April), Eurostat, the statistics office of the European Union, begins the publication of a preliminary GDP flash estimate at around 30 days after the end of the reference quarter.

    Compared with the same quarter of the previous year (2015), seasonally adjusted GDP rose by 1.6% in the euro area and by 1.7% in the EU28 in the first quarter of 2016.

    However, the new figures brought the aggregated GDP only slightly above the situation during the first months of 2008 before the outbreak of the economic crisis, with some strong economies moving ahead and other countries still not recovering the losses during the crisis years.

    Well-known economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz commented in the International New York Times (1 May): “It’s almost a lost decade. It’s a remarkable testimony to the economic failure of the euro and the Eurozone.”

    As regards the unemployment rate, the new figures show some improvement in both the euro area and EU as a whole. The unemployment however is significantly higher in the euro area.

    The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 10.2% in March 2016 in the Eurozone, down from 10.4% in February 2016, and from 11.2% in March 2015. This is the lowest rate recorded in the euro area since August 2011.

    The EU28 unemployment rate was 8.8% in March 2016, down from 8.9% in February 2016, and from 9.7% in March 2015. This is the lowest rate recorded in the EU28 for seven years, since April 2009.

    Eurostat estimates that 21.419 million men and women in the EU28, of whom 16.437 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in March 2016. Compared with March 2015, unemployment fell by 2.091 million in the EU28 and by 1.477 million in the euro area.

    Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates in March 2016 were recorded in the Czech Republic (4.1%) and Germany (4.2%). The highest unemployment rates were observed in Greece (24.4% in January 2016) and Spain (20.4%).

    For comparison, Eurostat mentions that the unemployment rate in the United States was 5.0% in March 2016, up from 4.9% in February 2016, and down from 5.5% in March 2015.

    In March 2016, 4.287 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU28. Compared with March 2015, youth unemployment decreased by 498 000 in the EU28 and by 286 000 in the euro area.

    In March 2016, the youth unemployment rate was 19.1% in the EU28 and 21.2% in the euro area, compared with 20.9% and 22.7% respectively in March 2015. In March 2016, the lowest rates were observed in Germany (6.9%), the Czech Republic and Malta (both 9.8%), and the highest in Greece (51.9% in January 2016), Spain (45.5%), Croatia (39.0% in the first quarter 2016) and Italy (36.7%).

    Definition of unemployment rate

    Eurostat defines unemployed persons as persons aged 15 to 74 who:

     – are without work;

     – are available to start work within the next two weeks;

     – and have actively sought employment at some time during the previous four weeks.

    The unemployment rate is the number of people unemployed as a percentage of the labour force.  The labour force is the total number of people employed plus unemployed.

    The Brussels Times (Source: Eurostat)