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Italy’s jobless improvement hard to be seen sign of economic recovery

Italy’s jobless improvement hard to be seen sign of economic recovery

ROME, March 5 (PNA/Xinhua) — Italian unemployment, which has been among the worst in the European Union in recent years, has shown slight improvement, according to the latest figures released by Italy’s National Statistics Institute. But economists say it’s still too early to consider it a sign of economic recovery.

Italy’s economy has been mired in an economic malaise for over a decade. There were occasional bursts showing faster-than-expected economic growth or rises in consumer confidence, but each time the country’s stubbornly high unemployment figures tempered the optimism.

Now, unemployment data seem to be inching in the right direction, with the rate dropped to 11.9 percent in February from 12 percent in January, while unemployment among workers aged 15 to 24 improved to 37.9 percent from 39.2 percent a month earlier. Both categories were adjusted for seasonal factors.

Though the changes were small, the data represent the strongest employment in at least 18 months.

Despite the improvement, economists here are unwilling to endorse it as a sign of an impending recovery, saying the new trends could be the result of other factors.

“Do you know how many fewer people were looking for work in January? It was a drop of about 30,000,” Alessandro Polli, an economic statistics expert with La Sapienza University in Rome, told Xinhua.

“And how many people stopped looking for work? That was also about 30,000. So a lot of the drop in unemployment can be accounted for by the fact that many potential workers just stopped looking for work,” Polli pointed out.

“It’s possible some of the workers showing in the statistics as dropping out of the job market are just switching to the black market,” the expert added, noting that “if that was a big factor it would be reflected in more GDP growth and we haven’t seen that.”

Giandomenico Piluso, an economist with the University of Siena, said the overall trend is positive even if it is slow moving.

“By now, Italy has recovered about two-third of the jobs lost 2008 to 2013 (a period witnessed the global recession),” Piluso said in an interview.

But the economist also cautioned the news was still not all good.

“Italy still has too many women who are not entering the labor force and far too many young people who are unemployed,” said Piluso.

“And compared to European Union averages, the overall rate is still far too high,” he added.

In addition to improved employment, there’s another positive sign for Italy’s economy is the inflation rate, which climbed 1.0 percent in January compared with the previous year.

Though too much inflation is dangerous because it erodes the buying power of workers’ wages, Polli said that was not a risk for Italy at this point. Instead, he said, it showed demand for products was on the rise.

“None of what we are seeing yet is a sign of vigorous economic growth,” Polli said. “But it’s not a bad sign either. We have to wait and see what happens next.” (PNA/Xinhua)
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