Widespread joblessness in Greece and Spain pushed the unemployment rate in the 17-country eurozone to 10.7%, the highest level since the currency was introduced in 1999.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Widespread joblessness in Greece and Spain pushed the unemployment rate in the eurozone to the worst level since the currency was introduced in 1999.
The unemployment rate in the 17 countries thase use the euro hit 10.7% in January, according to Eurostat, the European Union statistics office. That compares to a rate of 10.6% in December, and 10% a year earlier.
"This is appalling," said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, highlighting that the unemployment rate following the collapse of Lehman Brothers peaked at 10.2%.
What's more, the jobless rate for the last six months of 2011 were all revised higher.
Greece has the dubious honor of having the highest unemployment rate in the region, at 23.3%. Joblessness in Spain is not far behind, with the unemployment rate at 19.9%. Only Austria, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany boast unemployment rates below 6%.
The situation in the broader European Union, which includes countries like that United Kingdom that don't use the euro, is not much better. The unemployment rate across is at 10.1% for the 27-country area, up from 10% in December and 9.5% a year earlier.
Two weeks ago, the Eurostat reported that the eurozone economy shrank during the fourth quarter of 2011, contracting for the first time since the second quarter of 2009.
And as Europe's debt crisis and planned austerity reforms continue to take their toll, the eurozone is widely expected to suffer a mild recession this year.
While unemployment in Europe is worsening, the U.S. labor market has improved. In January, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.3%, the lowest since February 2009. The Labor Department reports the February unemployment rate next week.
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