(ANSA) – Rome, July 31 – Unemployment among young Italians climbed last month to 43.7%, a level not seen in 37 years, according to statistics Thursday that presented further evidence of the continuing weakness in the country’s lackluster economy.
The jobless rate among Italians aged 15 to 24 rose from a revised 43.1% in May, said national statistical agency Istat, adding that June’s level of 43.7% was the highest since it began keeping quarterly jobs statistics in 1977.
“The economic situation is less than favourable,” said Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan.
The agency offered a bit of positive news, reporting that Italy’s overall unemployment rate edged lower to 12.3% in June compared with a 12.6% rate in May, primarily due to growing employment among women.
Put another way, Italy’s national employment rate – measuring the number of working-age Italians with jobs – stood at 55.7% in June.
Istat also noted that the overall jobless rate was 0.1% higher last month than during the same period last year.
Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti said that lower overall unemployment was a positive signal for the economy. “(The data) confirm the real possibility for our country to resume the path of growth,” said Poletti. “These signals must be encouraged and supported with a quick and effective policy action”.
Meanwhile, Istat also reported that inflation in July was just 0.1% – a sign of significant economic weakness that can translate into businesses losing money, cutting costs, and eventually, reducing jobs.
Both inflation and the jobless rate send important signals about the strength, or weakness, in an economy.
Policy-makers often aim to hold inflation at about 2%, which many judge to be the right amount to ensure adequate growth without driving prices too high.
In an effort to try to stimulate economic growth and avoid disinflation, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said last month that the bank has a number of measures in mind to bring inflation back to its target “below but close to 2%”.
The ECB’s package of unusual measures included two interest rate cuts and as much as 400 billion euros in new loans.
Draghi said the bank was also preparing to purchase asset-backed securities in future to support growth across Europe.
Italy is still trying to grow itself out of its worst recession since the Second World War and at the end of last year, the country appeared to have finally emerged from the hard economic times when it posted positive growth of 0.1% in the final quarter.
But those hopes of recovery were undermined by subsequent statistics showing that gross domestic product (GDP) actually fell by 0.1% in the first three months of this year.
That is reflected in stubbornly high unemployment, including the record-setting rate of youth joblessness which has been a particular concern for the Italian government, as it struggles to devise policies to improve employment opportunities.
The government of Premier Matteo Renzi has said it would make jobs for youth a top priority during Italy’s six months in the duty presidency of the European Union, which continues until the end of this year.