Greece's unemployment hit a record 21.8% in January, double the average for the euro zone.
Reuters reported Thursday that the statistics service ELSTAT said its figures also showed that the country's average annual unemployment rate for 2011 ballooned to 17.7% from an average rate of 12.5% in 2010. The rate for December of 2011 was 21.2%.
Young people had it especially hard. More young people in Greece are out of work than employed. ELSTAT said that, for the second consecutive month, those 15 to 24 years old had an unemployment rate of 50.8%. That is twice as high as it was only three years ago.
Numerous corporate closures and bankruptcies resulting from stiff budget cuts have added to the problem, but those budget measures were conditions for Greece's bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund. In 2008, Greece entered a recession that has become deeper and longer than any since before World War II. Since then its economy is estimated to have shrunk by about 20%, with the disappearance of some 600,000 jobs, more than one out 10, as a result.
In January those out of work set a new record at 1.08 million people. That is 47% higher than in January 2011, said ELSTAT. Those who had jobs numbered a record low of 3.88 million—a decrease of 8.6%.
Such a large increase in unemployment is taking a toll on the Greek budget, with benefit payouts to the jobless undercutting targets. On Wednesday the Greek finance ministry said that, despite its intent to narrow its budget deficit by 38% in 2012, in the first quarter the deficit had increased by 53%.