Euro zone unemployment rose in January to 10.7 percent, the highest figure since 1999, as joblessness continued increasing in Portugal, Italy and Spain, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, said Thursday. The agency also said inflation in February rose to 2.7 percent.

Eurostat said 16.93 million Europeans were unemployed in January, of which 3.3 million were young people aged 18 to 24. 

Spain, which has a youth unemployment rate of over 50 percent and the highest official rate of joblessness in the monetary union, saw unemployment rise to 23.3 percent. The data would have likely been worse were it not for the fact the EU uses the unemployment figure from November 2011 when taking into account unemployment in the Hellenic Republic.

Europe's high level of youth unemployment is developing into a worrisome issue with unpredictable political repercussions. Spain, which has some of the worse youth unemployment in the developed world, saw massive protests against austerity Wednesday, which were led by students demonstrating against cuts in education spending, devolve into riots.

In Barcelona Wednesday, young people set fires on the streets, clashed with police and vandalized various commercial bank branches in plain daylight.