ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's recession eased in the third quarter while the unemployment rate stood at 27.3 percent in August, unchanged from the previous month, official data showed Thursday. The government described the stabilization in the job market as the "first sign of recovery."
The Greek Statistical Authority on Thursday said 88,242 more people were out of work over the year to August, bringing the total number of unemployed to 1.36 million. Youth unemployment has continued to rise, with the jobless rate for those under 25 reaching 60.6 percent, up from 58.2 percent a year earlier.
The economy contracted by 3 percent in the third quarter of the year, easing from 3.7 percent in April-June. "This is the first sign of recovery," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told the AP, commenting on the national unemployment figures.
"Our aim is to bring that unemployment down significantly next year, as the reforms we are currently implementing take hold." Greece's is currently in tough negotiations with bailout lenders to try to avoid new austerity measures that could threaten the economy's emergence from six years of contraction.
Unions say they expect the jobless rate to peak at around 30 percent and for the economy to start recovering in 2015. On Thursday, civil servants' unions held work stoppages and were planning demonstrations later in the day to protest mass staff cuts underway as part of the country's bailout commitments.
Strikes by administrative staff have already kept Greece's two largest universities closed for 10 weeks. Police are planning a major deployment starting Friday, leading up to Sunday's anniversary of a 1973 bloody student uprising against a military dictatorship. Several labor demonstrations are planned for Sunday along with an annual march to the U.S. embassy in Athens.
Greece has been in recession since 2008 and relied on international rescue loans since 2010, under a bailout program worth 240 billion euros ($322 billion).