Italy’s unemployment hit 13 per cent for the first time in February and is expected to remain high for months to come, raising the pressure on new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The country’s jobless rate continued to creep stubbornly up, defying improving economic conditions elsewhere in Europe and breaking January’s record, Italy’s national statistics agency said on Tuesday.
While other eurozone countries hit hard by Europe’s economic crisis – such as Portugal and Ireland – have seen a drop in the number of jobseekers, in Italy there were 272,000 more people looking for work in February than a year ago.
Only fellow eurozone trouble spots Greece and Spain have seen their jobless rates rise this year.
Renzi, on a trip to London Tuesday, described the figures as “distressing”.
“In one year, a thousand workers a day have lost their jobs,” he was quoted as saying by Italian media.
“There are signs of a recovery but they are not enough.”
Pietro Reichlin, an expert in macroeconomics at the Luiss University in Rome, told AFP “the figures certainly are not good”, though they came as no surprise.
“There is always a gap between economic recovery and the job sector following a crisis,” he said, referring to the debt-laden country’s two-year recession – the worst in the post-war period.
Italy’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2013 but ordinary Italians have yet to feel the benefits.
Renzi – Italy’s youngest leader, who came to power six weeks ago – has promised to boost employment with a “jobs act” that would simplify the rules governing apprenticeships and lengthen flexible contracts to three years.