Unemployment in Greece has hit a new high with the country weighed down by internationally brokered austerity measures. But industrial output has increased slightly, providing a silver lining for Athens.
Greece's unemployment rate rose to a record 23.1 percent in May, up from 22.6 percent in the previous month and up from 16.8 percent year-on-year, the national statistics office Elstat reported on Thursday.
It said joblessness war particularly high among the under-25-year-olds, standing at 54.9 percent in May. Some economists in Greece claimed the sharp rise in unemployment was a direct result of austerity measures forced upon Athens by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for urgently needed bailout loans.
But European Commission Spokesman Olivier Bailly brushed aside such arguments, saying in a statement in Brussels that the EU's and the IMF's recipe for Greece was not at all based on austerity alone. He added the employment crisis was "a matter of deep concern" for the Commission.
Surviving until the next bailout
Elstat also reported a slight rise in Greek industrial output which edged up 0.3 percent in June from the previous month, meaning the first increase in about three years. The statistics office added the rise was mainly due to increased activities in the mining and energy sectors.
The government in Athens said it was optimistic about getting another European bailout loan in mid-September. Deputy Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said he expected the outstanding report by auditors on Greece's savings efforts to be positive.
Reuters news agency quoted government officials as saying that a special labor reserve measure would be revived, targeting 40,000 public servants for eventual dismissal. This would secure the 11.5 billion euros ($14.14 billion) in savings Athens had promised international lenders.