Unemployment hits new record in Europe

Paris - Unemployment in the eurozone rose to a new record in November, according to data released Tuesday that also showed that the troubles in the 17-nation currency zone are straining its strongest member, Germany.

The eurozone jobless rate rose to a new high of 11.8 percent in November from 11.7 percent in October, Eurostat, the statistical agency of the European Union, reported from Luxembourg. Eurostat estimates that about 18.8 million people in the eurozone were unemployed in November, 2 million more than a year earlier.

Germany has provided necessary momentum to Europe's overall economy throughout the past three years, proving resilient to the crisis plaguing the common currency, largely due to the strength of its exports.

But on Tuesday, the Federal Statistics Office in Berlin said German imports slid 3.7 percent in November, while exports dropped 3.4 percent, resulting in a narrowing of Germany's trade surplus to 14.6 billion euros ($19 billion).

German factory orders also fell in November amid weak demand from outside the euro area, the Economy Ministry in Berlin said Tuesday. Orders, adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation, dropped 1.8 percent from October, when they jumped a revised 3.8 percent.

"The November numbers are not a one-off but an extension of the current trend of weakening exports," Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING, wrote in a research note on Tuesday in which he pointed out an overall decline in German exports of about 4 percent since last May.

"Today's data confirmed our view that exports should have turned from driver of growth into drag on growth," he wrote.

A separate report from Eurostat showed retail sales fell 2.6 percent in November from a year earlier, though they managed a 0.1 percent gain from October.

Attacking joblessness may require governments to ease back on austerity measures that many economists, including some at the International Monetary Fund, say might have gone too far. In France, President Francois Hollande has vowed to turn around the flagging labor market in France.

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