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Greek Jobless Rate Hits 18.4% as Economy Tanks

ATHENS – As Greece waited on a new coalition government needed to keep international loans coming and prevent the country’s bankruptcy, the austerity measures that go along with them have driven the unemployment rate to 18.4%.
That came as hundreds of thousands of Greek households were getting their new emergency property tax bills – on top of their annual bills – that have been put into electric bills under the threat of having their service turned off, wages garnished and properties seized for non-payment.  The hike was 1.9 percent above July and 6.2 percent more than the same time last year. The number of the unemployed grew by almost 50 percent to 907,953. Greek unemployment figures are not adjusted for seasonal factors
The government has imposed wave after wave of pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and thousands of coming layoffs of public workers on the orders of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank Troika which is lending the country $152 billion in rescue loans and has lined up another $157 billion bailout, but only if more austerity measures are put on the people.
Greece is in a fourth year of a deep recession that has also seen more than 100,000 businesses closed and another 53,000 projected to shut as fearful Greeks have slowed spending drastically, resulting in half the shops in some neighborhoods, including downtown Athens now shuttered. Accompanying protests, riots and strikes have also damaged the economy.
Even a near 10 percent increase in tourism couldn’t slow the devastation in other sectors. The national statistics agency ELSAT, which released the figures, said 43.5 percent of young people are out of work and some 70 percent of those under 25 said they now want to leave the country to find work and a better life elsewhere, mirroring the immigration of Greeks abroad 100 years ago. The rate for the young was up 12.7 percent in one year.
“The rate of deterioration in the labor market topped even the most pessimistic projections during a month when tourism provides support,” Nikos Magginas, an economist at National Bank of Greece told Reuters. “At this pace, it will be hard to see unemployment below 18 percent in the last quarter.” Greece’s economy is still shrinking for a fourth consecutive year in 2011, at an annual pace of 5.5 percent. The EU and IMF said they don’t expect a recovery for two years.

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