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Cyprus labour minister says unemployment is top priority

02 March, 2013

 * Eurostat says Cyprus jobless inches up to 14.7% *

Combating unemployment is a top priority for the new government of Cyprus, with its newly appointed labour minister saying on Saturday that the situation is “out of control” and that the conclusion of a bailout package with international lenders will help stabilise the economy.

Labour and Social Insurance Minister Harris Georgiades, less than a day from taking office, said on Saturday that “we need to work collectively because this is not an issue concerning only one Ministry, but the whole government.” He added that it is imperative to create the necessary preconditions for the economy to recover and expand, encouraging enterprises to create jobs.

Georgiades also said that the Memorandum of Understanding with the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF for a 17.5 bln euro bailout needs to be concluded as soon as possible in order to proceed with the next steps leading to recovery and growth.

Georgiades said that unemployment increased fivefold during the last years but that these rates will slow down, despite a marginal increase in the jobless rate in January, according to the latest Eurostat figures.

The Minister also said that new areas of job creation will be encouraged, such as the oil and gas sector after the recent discovery of large amounts of natural gas in offshore fields south of the island and close to similar gasfields in neighbouring Israel.

The euro area seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 11.9% in January 2013, up from 11.8% in December 2012, according to Eurostat, with the EU27 rate at 10.8%, up from 10.7% in the previous month.

Eurostat estimates that 26.217 mln men and women in the EU27, of whom 18.998 mln were in the euro area, were unemployed in January 2013, up by 222,000 in the EU27 and by 201,000 in the euro area.

The lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria (4.9%), Germany and Luxembourg (both 5.3%) and the Netherlands (6.0%), and the highest in Greece (27.0% in November 2012), Spain (26.2%) and Portugal (17.6%).

The unemployment rate increased in 19 EU member states, fell in seven and remained stable in Denmark. The largest decreases were in Estonia (from 11.1% to 9.9%), Latvia (15.5% to 14.4%), Romania (7.4% to 6.6%) and the U.K. (8.3% to 7.7%).

The highest increases were registered in Greece (20.8% to 27.0%), Cyprus (9.9% to 14.7%), Portugal (14.7% to 17.6%) and Spain (23.6% to 26.2%).

In January 2013, the youth unemployment rate was 23.6% in the EU27 and 24.2% in the euro area, compared with 22.4% and 21.9%, respectively, in January 2012.