Europe's economic gloom has deepened on the back of news that unemployment in the 17-nation euro zone hit another record high in September as the region's debt crisis continued to sap the confidence of business owners, investors and consumers alike.
About 18.5 million people were out of work in the euro zone in September, adding up to an unemployment rate of 11.6 per cent. That figure exceeds August's record of 11.5 per cent and follows the worrisome trend of the past half-year, during which unemployment has either remained static or worsened with each successive month.
The grim picture painted by Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency, comes as the continent's debt crisis is about to enter its fourth year with no full resolution in sight. Lawmakers in Greece, where the crisis began, are still grappling with another punishing round of austerity cuts demanded by international lenders, while Spain is keeping markets on tenterhooks over whether it will be the next country to seek a bailout from its European partners.
According to Eurostat, there were 2.2 million more people out of work in September than a year ago in the 17 nations that share the euro currency. Since then, a number of those economies have tumbled back into recession, government debt ratios have risen, commercial lending has dwindled and investors have taken flight.
But the newly released figures highlighted the alarming gap that continues to widen between nations in northern Europe and those in the south where the debt crisis is having the most crushing impact.
Although the overall euro-zone unemployment rate was 11.6 per cent, it was a mere 5.4 per cent in both Germany and Austria. By contrast, Spain and Greece are struggling with startlingly high unemployment rates of about 25 per cent.