European unemployment has reached a record high – with almost 19 million out of work across the 17 countries that use the euro.
More than 10 per cent of people living in the Eurozone are now unemployed with those under 25 struggling the most to find jobs.
Experts said the prospect of a ‘lost generation’ of young people now looks like an ‘alarming possibility’.
The figures from EU statistics body Eurostat showed the eurozone recession has pushed unemployment in the currency bloc up from the previous record of 11.6 per cent in September to 11.7 per cent in October.
While the increase was expected by economists, it raises new fears about the recovery on the continent. The eurozone returned to recession in the third quarter – a recession is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
‘The level of unemployment in Europe remains unacceptably high,’ said Jonathan Todd, a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm.
The data showed that a total of 18.7 million people were out of work last month – an increase of 173,000 on the previous month.
Spain and Greece have the region’s highest unemployment rates – both over 25 per cent, with youth unemployment levels heading towards 60 per cent.
But experts hope the latest austerity measures will start to make an impact on the figures.
Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, said: ‘We expect that progress in structural reforms, especially those that improve the functioning of labour markets, will help lower unemployment and facilitate new employment opportunities.’
Jonathan Todd, a spokesman for the European Commission, said all EU countries need to implement a new scheme – to be officially proposed next week – to help young jobless people.
The scheme would ensure that, within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed, a young person would be offered a job, further education, a traineeship or an apprenticeship.
He said: ‘This would extend to the whole of the EU existing good practice that exists in, for example, Austria, Finland and Sweden.’
At present, the five euro countries at the forefront of the debt crisis – Greece, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and Portugal – are in recession.
Others, like the Netherlands and Austria – neither of which is particularly debt-laden – are also close to officially falling into recession, having posting declines in third-quarter economic output. Austria nevertheless has the lowest unemployment rate in the eurozone, at 4.3 per cent.
The currency bloc’s powerhouse economies, such as Germany and France, have also seen growth levels fall in the last year and that’s ratcheted up the pressure on businesses to cut costs.
Germany’s unemployment rate stood at a still-low 5.4 per cent in October, but France’s was nearly double that at 10.7 per cent.