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Eurozone Jobless Rate Hits Record High

The European Union flag is seen above the cupola of the Reichstag building, the seat of the Bundestag in Berlin, April 2, 2012.
The unemployment rate in Europe's 17-nation euro currency bloc has risen to a record 11 percent.

The European Union said Friday that more than 17 million people were out of work in the eurozone as government austerity measures continue to take their toll on new hiring. The EU revised its March jobless rate up a notch to 11 percent and said the figure was matched in April, the highest level since records were first kept in 1995.

Analysts said the eurozone's stagnant economy could push the unemployment rate even higher in the months to come, possibly through the end of 2012. The currency union has struggled to boost economic growth while coping with the governmental debt crisis, now in its third year.

The new jobless statistics exhibit the wide disparity in the economic fortunes of individual countries in the eurozone, with its debt-ridden nations having significantly higher unemployment rates. Spain recorded a jobless rate of more than 24 percent, with Greece at nearly 22 percent and Portugal at more than 15 percent in recent months.

In contrast, economic powerhouse Germany was at 5.4 percent, with Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria even lower.

The eurozone is engaged in a sharp political debate over how to boost economic growth even as governments seek to rein in their deficit spending. The call by new French President Francois Hollande for policies to foster more job creation has collided with austerity measures pushed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At the same time, Spain is struggling to finance its $24 billion takeover of the debt-ridden Bankia financial institution, and Greek voters are facing mid-June parliamentary elections that could help decide whether the country remains in the eurozone or becomes the first to leave it.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.