Greek Jobless Rate Stuck at 27.3%

The lines of Greek jobless now extend to more than 1.1 million people

– Andy Dabilis/TNH Staff

ATHENS – Greece’s record unemployment rate of 27.3 percent didn’t change in August from the previous month as the government still hasn’t unveiled any plans to put people back to work, particularly its young, where the figure for those under 25 is 60.6 percent.

The government said it was a good sign, however, that the rate didn’t go up saying it was the “first sign of recovery” for the country in its sixth year of a deep recession worsened by austerity measures demanded by international lenders in return for $325 billion in two bailouts that haven’t cut the $430 billion debt.

Greece is reeling in an economic crisis caused by decades of the ruling coalition parties of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner, the PASOK Socialists, packing public payrolls with hundreds of thousands of needless workers in return for votes.

Ironically, they are now charged by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) with getting rid of 40,000 public workers in return for continued aid.

The Greek Statistical Authority ELSTAT said 88,242 more people were out of work over the year till August, bringing the total number of unemployed to 1.36 million.

The government is in tough negotiations with the Troika in a desperate bid to avoid imposing new austerity measures which Samaras promised he would never, ever again implement. But with a looming hole of as much as 2.9 billion euros ($3.89 billion) in the 2014 budget, he may have no choice although there are fears that could set off more social unrest.

The jobless rate is more than twice the average rate in the Eurozone of 12.2 percent in September. The overall unemployment rate has more than tripled since 2008, the start of the recession which has wiped out about a quarter of Greece’s economy.

Some 56 percent of Greeks said despite the government’s spin that all will soon be well that Greece is “probably not” near the end of the economic crisis, according to the survey which was conducted on a sample of 700 pupils.

Greek pupils are pessimistic about their job prospects and many are considering moving abroad to escape high unemployment, another survey showed. The VPRC poll commissioned by the Greek-German school in Athens (Ellinogermaniki Agogi) found that 63 percent of senior high pupils said they are “pessimistic” about their job prospects and 37 percent said they want to work abroad.

ECONOMIC WOES

Greece’s economy shrank by a slightly better-than-expected 3 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period last year, its smallest such decline in nearly three years, thanks to a rebound in tourism.

The flash estimate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from ELSTAT on Nov. 14 marked the smallest fall in economic output since the third quarter of 2010. Economists had forecast a 3.1 percent contraction.

“The reading was broadly in line with expectations, reflecting mainly the positive impact of strong tourism revenues,” economist Platon Monokroussos at Athens-based Eurobank told Reuters. “The figure supports our forecast for a full-year reading less than -4.0 percent.”

The seasonally unadjusted data followed a downwardly revised 3.7 percent slump in the second quarter, bringing the economy’s annual contraction in the three quarters to 4.0 percent. Greece does not publish official quarter-on-quarter changes in GDP.

Tourism, which accounts for about a fifth of Greek GDP, is rebounding and revenues, which fell about 5 percent last year, jumped 13.7 percent in the first eight months of this year. Officials expect tourism revenues to rise by 10 percent in 2013 to 11 billion euros on a record 17 million visitors this year, a million more than last year.

The Troika projects the economy will shrink by 4 percent this year but Samaras said Greece is becoming a “success story” and will turn around next year. He said earlier this year that in January he would have a plan to put 75,000 of the country’s young to work but hasn’t said a word about it since.