Greece remains the major exception to the eurozone’s wider recovery in growth and unemployment, suffering a slight rise in its double-digit jobless rate at the end of 2016.
The country’s unemployment rate ended the year at 23.1 per cent in December, revised up to that level from 23 per cent in November – the highest in the eurozone.
Greece’s labour market seems immune to the broader improvements in jobs growth seen elsewhere in Europe where average unemployment has now fallen to a four-year low of 9.8 per cent.
The economy, which has the highest debt burden in the bloc at 180 per cent, also suffered a sharp growth set back in the last three months of the year, contracting by 1.2 per cent.
It was the worst GDP performance since the height of its debt crisis in the summer of 2015 and reflects renewed uncertainty in its bailout talks. Average eurozone GDP rose 0.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
But the economic slump is likely to support the left-wing Syriza government’s claims that imposing more austerity – a demand it accuses the International Monetary Fund of – will only hamper the beleaguered economy.
But officials at the IMF have claimed that the slowing economy will make it even harder for Greece to hit ambitious budgetary targets and require another round of “structural” reforms to its tax and pension system.
“The data will simply reinforce the stand-off, rather than benefit one side over the other”, said Mujtaba Rahman at Eurasia Group.