The economic situation in Europe appears to be deteriorating on a month-by-month basis, particularly among Europe's vast hordes of unemployed. In this posting, I will summarize the most current employment data for the Europe as a whole and on a country-by-country basis so we can see just how serious the issue is.
Here is a graph showing the number of unemployed Europeans (in thousands) in the 17 nations that use the euro as their currency (EA17) since the early days of the European Union in 1995:
The number of unemployed Europeans in the EA17 reached a new peak in March 2012, hitting the 17.365 million mark, a new record, keeping in mind that this is out of a total population of 502 million (2010 data). The number of unemployed is up 11.1 percent or 1.732 million over March 2011 and is up a whopping 53 percent from the EU historical record low of 11.349 million in not-so-long-ago March of 2008, just prior to the Great Contraction.
While this looks bad enough, the data gets worse. Eurostat estimates that the total number of unemployed in the EU27 (all 27 Member States) reached 24.772 million, up 2.123 million or 9.4 percent on a year-over-year basis. By any measure, that is a lot of unemployed people. Here is a graph showing the number of unemployed (in millions) in both the EA17 and the EU27:
Here is a graph showing the unemployment rate for the EA17 and EU27 since the beginning of 2000:
Note that the wider European area has a higher unemployment rate than the central core of 17 nations that use the euro as their currency. All in all however, things have never really looked worse for Europe's unemployed.
Here is a country-by-country breakdown of the unemployment rate for March 2012 showing how the situation is critical in Europe's most fiscally troubled nations of Ireland (IE), Portugal (PT), Greece (EL) and Spain (ES):
Here is a map showing the same data for total male and female unemployment giving us a better sense for the geographical relationship between unemployment and location within Europe:
Notice how, excluding the former Iron Curtain countries, the closer one lives to the Mediterranean Sea, the more likely one is to be unemployed (and find that their country is over-indebted as a bonus!)
Looking back at the data for the EA17, year-over-year unemployment rose in 19 Member States and fell in only eight, with the largest drops in small states including Lithuania (17.5 percent to 14.3 percent), Latvia (17.1 percent to 14.6 percent) and Estonia (13.9 percent to 11.7 percent), noting that all three nations still have elevated unemployment rates compared to their larger, more developed counterparts. Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate rose the most on a year-over-year basis in Greece (14.7 percent to 21.7 percent) and Spain (20.8 percent to 24.1 percent).
The unemployment situation is far worse for young Europeans under 25 years of age as shown on this graph:
In March 2012, 5.516 million Europeans under the age of 25 were unemployed in the EU27 compared to 3.345 million in the EA17. On a year-over-year basis, youth unemployment increased by 303,000 or 5.8 percent in the EU27 and 163,000 or 4.9 percent in the EA17. All of this resulted in a youth unemployment rate of 22.6 percent in the EU27 and 22.1 percent in the euro area, up from 21.0 percent and 20.6 percent respectively, one year earlier. For your enlightenment, this compares to a youth unemployment rate of 16.4 percent in the United States.
Fortunately for Europe, many Member States will have rapidly aging populations over the next 30 years as shown on this graph:
Aging will ultimately remove many Europeans from the work force, putting at least some downward pressure on the unemployment rate as there will be fewer people competing for the jobs that are available.
From this data, it appears that the European Central Bank's extended period of ultra-low interest rates have done very little for Europe's unemployed just as the Federal Reserve's easing and twisting has had only a marginal impact on the employment situation in the United States. As I've said before, this time really is different and my suspicion is that elevated levels and rapid growth of sovereign debt are in some way connected to the employment malaise in Europe and North America.