The number of unemployed continued to increase in March 2012, though its rate remained at the February level of 10.2 %. This is 0.8 pp higher than in March last year, corresponding to 2.1 million more people unemployed, bringing the total number to 24.8 million.
The increase has been very constant over recent months. In March alone, the number of jobless rose by 193 000 in the EU.
The upward trend in unemployment is confirmed as 20 Member States recorded rises over the year to March 2012. The most significant rises were again seen in Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal and Italy. On the other hand, significant falls took place in the Baltic States and, to a lesser extent, in Germany.
Divergence among EU labour markets increased further, as the gap between the lowest and highest unemployment rates, respectively in Austria (4.0 %) and Spain (24.1 %), surpassed the threshold of 20 pps for the first time.
Youth unemployment remains critical in the EU, as its rate climbed twice as fast as that for adults over the last twelve months. It rose again by 0.1 pp in March 2012, to 22.6 %. This is 1.6 pps up on March last year. Huge contrasts persist between Member States, with youth unemployment rates well above the 50 % mark in Spain and Greece.
Long-term unemployment is also at a high, as it accounted for 4.3 % of the active population in the fourth quarter of 2011, up by 0.3 pp on the year.
Hiring activity remains positive but on-line labour demand declined further in April 2012, while the number of hours worked by temporary agency workers had declined for the second consecutive month in February 2012. However, EU consumers again tend to be less pessimistic on unemployment changes in the months to come.