April 1, 2014 / 8:27 AM / 3 years ago

Italy February jobless rate 13 percent, record since 1977

A worker welds in a factory in Gravellona Lomellina, 45km (27 miles) southwest of Milan, June 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

(Reuters) - Italy’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged up to 13.0 percent in February from 12.9 percent the previous month to stay at its highest level since records began in 1977, data showed on Tuesday.

Youth unemployment, measuring job-seekers between 15 and 24 years old, was 42.3 percent in February, down from 42.4 percent in January, still close to its highest level in 37 years.

The weaknesses in Italy’s labour market are equally evident in its chronically low employment rate, which was at 55.2 percent in February, down from 55.3 percent the previous month.

In February, there were 3.307 million registered unemployed, 8,000 more than the previous month, and 272,000 or 9 percent more than the same month last year, ISTAT said.

The data underlines the challenge facing new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has promised to make cutting unemployment the top priority for his government. He is expected to unveil a new “Jobs Act” that aims to lower labour costs and simplify the complex system of employment contracts widely blamed for deterring Italian employers from hiring new staff.

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