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Territorially small and politically fragmented, Europe remains disproportionately influential in global affairs. A key component of the global core, Europe today consists of two regions: a mainland and offshore Core in the west, and a Periphery curving across the realm's southern, eastern, and far northern domains.
Problems in Southern Europe
Off the Charts: In Europe, Adult Unemployment Rises
In August, 1.9 million German adults — defined as people at least 25 years old — were counted as unemployed, meaning they were looking for work but had not found it. That figure is the lowest number since 1991, not long after the country was unified.
In the rest of the euro zone, there were 13.9 million unemployed adults. That is the highest number since the euro was created in 1999.
Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical agency, reported this week that the overall number of unemployed workers in the euro zone countries declined in August for the third consecutive month. That decline was caused by a reduction in the high level of joblessness among younger workers, those under 25. But unemployment among older workers continued to increase.
The accompanying charts show the change in the number of workers classified as unemployed among both age groups, in Germany and in the rest of the euro zone, since December 2007. They also show what has happened in the United States and Britain over that period and the current unemployment rates in each area.
While the rates of unemployment among younger workers have skyrocketed, the increase in the number of young unemployed workers since the downturn began has been much less than the increase among older workers — the ones most likely to have the responsibility to support a family.
Among the countries in the European Union, whether or not members of the euro zone, all but Germany now have more adult unemployed workers than at the end of 2007, when the United States went into recession and set off the credit crisis that brought on the Great Recession.
The only European Union countries where the current level of unemployment is less than a third higher than the 2007 level are Austria, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Malta and Romania.
In Germany, the number is down 35 percent.
Last month, Eurostat reported that the gross domestic product of the euro zone, excluding Germany, rose at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the second quarter. That was the first such increase since the second quarter of 2011, and helped to increase investor confidence. But the jobless figures show that, at least so far, there is little sign of recovery in the job market.
In the United States, the number of unemployed adults peaked in 2009 and has since declined, although it remains 57 percent higher than it was at the end of 2007. In Britain, the peak of unemployment came in 2011 and the decline has been slower, but the picture is still better than in most euro zone countries.
Germany’s extraordinary job performance can be traced to several factors. Government programs encouraged companies to cut hours rather than fire people during the crisis, preventing the surge in unemployment seen almost everywhere else.
Germany has since benefited from the euro zone crisis — despite the fact that resolving it seems likely to be costly for the country. Poor economic performance in much of the Continent has held down the value of the common currency, and thus helped German exports. There is little doubt that the deutschemark, if it still existed, would be a much stronger currency than the euro.
Floyd Norris comments on finance and the economy at nytimes.com/economix.