Unemployment rate ticks up in March as coronavirus blow starts to bite
Labor market conditions in the common currency bloc deteriorated in March, the first month when COVID-19 containment measures began to be extensively introduced, according to data released by Eurostat. The number of unemployed people jumped by 197,000, and the unemployment rate inched up to 7.4% in March from 7.3% in February, which had marked the lowest reading since March 2008.
Looking at the countries with data available, 12 economies saw their unemployment rate increase in March, including France, Germany and Spain—where the rise was particularly sharp. Meanwhile, Austria and the Netherlands saw their unemployment rate unchanged, while Italy’s unemployment fell considerably, although it was due to a sharp drop in active population.
Disparities in the labor market among core and periphery countries persist. Greece is the economy in the Eurozone with by far the highest unemployment rate (16.4%, data refers to January), followed by Spain (14.5%). At the other end of the spectrum, the Netherlands (2.9%), Germany (3.5%) and Malta (3.5%) have the lowest unemployment rates.
Commenting on the release, Bert Colijn, Eurozone senior economist, stated:
“This is somewhat milder than expected, but most of the impact is surely still to come as the eurozone labour market is usually quite rigid, most countries have short-time work schemes in place and data collection happened over the entire month, which suppresses the impact of the lockdown on the numbers.”