Europe is in recession again. Unemployment has climbed to the highest level in 15 years.
The jobless rate in the 17-nation euro area increased to 10.9 percent in March from 10.8 percent in February, the European Union's statistics office in Luxembourg said today. That's the highest since April 1997, when the rate reached a record high, according to Bloomberg News data going back to 1990. A manufacturing gauge in the region fell to 45.9 in April from 47.7 in March, Markit Economics said.
The European Central Bank will probably keep its benchmark interest rate at a record-low 1 percent tomorrow, according to all 58 economists in a Bloomberg survey. ECB President Mario Draghi said on April 25 that European leaders need to create a "growth compact" as spending cuts across the region damp activity and prompt a backlash among citizens.
The euro-area jobless rate in March matched the median forecast of 31 economists in a Bloomberg survey. The number of people out of work in the region rose by 169,000 from February to 17.4 million.
In the 27-nation European Union, the unemployment rate was 10.2 percent in March, unchanged from the previous month and up from 9.4 percent in March 2011.
Spain had the region's highest unemployment rate in March, at 24.1 percent, with Greece at 21.7 percent, the report showed. The lowest rates were in Austria and the Netherlands, at 4 percent and 5 percent respectively.
Yes, it could happen here - a double dip recession - but the possibility is receding.
It's true that there are many indicators that are lagging or even falling. The jobs outlook isn't very rosy, housing is still in crisis, manufacturing is weak, and consumer confidence is falling.
Despite all that, retail sales are up substantially, future manufacturing orders are up, and gas prices are easing. What it looks like is that we will have another few quarters of anemic growth - less than 2.5% and probably closer to 2% - and then we'll see.