The unemployment rate in Greece hit 28 percent in November, according to newly-released economic data from the country that has served as an austerity guinea pig for the past five years.
Youth unemployment climbed to 61.4 percent, meaning that the jobless rate for Greeks under 25 has held roughly steady for over a year. Overall, 1.3 million people in the country were looking for work in November, according to the figures.
The 28 percent figure is a new record high for Greek unemployment, which is especially striking given that the figure had already set new records in month after month last spring and summer. The unemployment rate across the Eurozone — the 17 countries that use the Euro as their currency — remains at 12 percent, just below the record high of 12.2 percent from August and September.
Greece has been mired in spending cuts, tax increases, and mass public layoffs for years now as the government scrambles to meet austerity requirements imposed by the central European authorities that bailed the country out. Public health workers were laid off in droves as part of the bailout, and the rate of stillbirths has spiked while the birthrate has collapsed in the years since.
The Greek economy has shrunk by a quarter since 2008. The International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank told the country that austerity would bring just a 5.5 percent contraction in its economy over three years, at which point things would stabilize and rebound.
For the most part, these groups insist that while their math was faulty their policies were still correct for Greece. But one economist at the European Commission published research in the fall showing that austerity packages made things worse than they would otherwise have been, not just in Greece but across the whole continent. In general, economic research shows that curing a sick economy with austerity measures is roughly the same as curing a sick patient by applying leeches: It doesn’t work and it may kill him.
When austerity came to the U.S., it wasn’t imposed from the outside as it was for Greece. Following the 2010 Tea Party wave, federal policy swung away from the kinds of things that are proven to buoy struggling economies and instead focused on reducing the deficit. That effort succeeded at slashing deficits, but put a serious drag on economic growth.