Euro zone unemployment rate climbs to 7.4% in May

Euro zone unemployment rate climbs to 7.4% in May

A protester at the picket line wears a helmet written on no layoffs during a demonstration in Spain.

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The unemployment rate in the euro zone came in at 7.4% in May, as the region grapples with the economic shock from Covid-19.

It comes after a number of European economies took their first steps to reopen in May, which has allowed some workers to return to their jobs. However, the social-distancing measures that remain in place and ongoing travel restrictions are limiting the pace of the recovery. 

The unemployment rate in the 19-member region rose to 7.4% — the worst reading since November last year. According to the European statistics office, the number means that 12.146 million people in the euro area were unemployed in May.

Youth unemployment, those aged between 15 and 24, also increased to 16% in May, from 15.7% in April. 

Some economists are expecting much worse unemployment figures going forward as governments reduce benefit schemes. At the height of the sovereign debt crisis during the last decade, the euro area experienced an unemployment rate of just above 12%.

Speaking on Friday, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said the world may be past the worst of the pandemic, though she cautioned that there is a risk of a second wave of infections.

The ECB has forecast a contraction of 8.7% in euro zone gross domestic product for the whole of 2020, followed by a rebound of 5.2% economic growth in 2021. 

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