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Unemployment remains low

Austria remains Europe’s employment model pupil.

The alpine country – which joined the European Union (EU) 10 years ago – had the lowest unemployment rate among all 27 members of the union last month, new figures show. Eurostat, the European Commission’s (EC) statistics office, said 4.2 per cent of Austrians were out of work last month. The Netherlands did second-best in the EU with a rate of 4.9 per cent. Luxembourg came third (5.2 per cent), with Germany in fourth place (5.7 per cent).

Spain and Greece experienced the most dramatic difficulties in fighting youth unemployment last month. More than one in two (50.5 per cent) of Spaniards younger than 25 had no job in March. Greece – which did not provide figures for last month – had a youth jobless rate of 50.4 per cent in December 2011. Spain’s overall unemployment rate was found to be the highest among the EU-27 at 23.6 per cent last month.

Austria and Germany do significantly better in this regard. Germany – the continent’s strongest economy – had the lowest jobless rate as far as people aged 25 and younger are concerned (8.2 per cent), followed by Austria with 8.3 per cent.

EC President Jose Manuel Barroso recently visited Austria to examine its youth employment structure. He lauded the country’s concept as a "best practice model" for the EU and revealed plans to inform economically challenged member states with a high youth unemployment rate about how Austria managed to keep its rate low. Barroso said he was certain that Austria’s strategy of offering labour traineeships and school education simultaneously to young people was the best way to get through the crisis. The country’s schools have been cooperating with its economy like this for years.

Detailed figures show that Austria’s economic and political elite must do more about unemployment among older people. Figures for last month show that joblessness is on the rise among immigrants as well. All but two of Austria’s nine provinces managed to lower their overall jobless rate from March 2011 to March 2012. The Austrian Labour Market Service (AMS) said unemployment rose most significantly in Styria (9 per cent) and Lower Austria (7.3 per cent).

Almost 155,700 men had no job in Austria last month, up by 5.7 per cent compared to March 2011. The number of unemployed women rose by 2.6 per cent to 109,100 at the same time. The construction sector counted 10 per cent fewer workers in March 2012 than in March 2011 while the Austrian tourism industry’s workforce level jumped by 3.4 per cent.

The number of employed people in Austria is on the rise at the same time. With 3.33 million, more Austrians and foreigners had work in the country last month than ever before. AMS chief Johannes Kopf said his agency was prepared for a possible increase in unemployment in the coming months. He said the domestic labour market could cope with the predicted rise in joblessness of between 10,000 and 15,000 people in 2012.

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