RTTNews - Eurozone employment registered a record decline in the first quarter as companies slashed headcount amid recession.

According to the European Union statistics agency Eurostat, the number of employed persons decreased 0.8% or by 1.22 million in the first three months of the year from the fourth quarter of 2008. This was the largest decline on record. In the fourth quarter, the decrease was only 0.4%.

Compared to the first quarter of 2008, employment dropped 1.2% after remaining stable in the fourth quarter.

During the first three months, payroll employment in the EU27 also fell 0.8% sequentially and 1.2% annually. In the first quarter, 223.8 million men and women were employed in the EU27, of which 146.2 million were in the euro area.

Employment in Spain slid 3.1% sequentially in the first quarter, while it was down 4.5% in Lithuania and 1.9% in Slovakia.

The Brussels-based European Commission expects the euro area unemployment rate to rise to 11.5% from 9.9% this year. The 16-nation euro area is projected to contract 4% in 2009 and 0.1% next year.

In April, unemployment in the Eurozone rose to its highest level in nearly ten years, with the rate at 9.2%, up from 8.9% in March. In the Eurozone, Spain recorded the highest unemployment rate, while the Netherlands had the lowest.

Last week, results of a quarterly survey by employment services firm Manpower said a sluggish global hiring pace in the first half of the year would continue into the third quarter of 2009. However, a large percentage of employers said they will retain the current staff.

Elsewhere, the Ifo employment barometer for German industry and trade rose in May, but the personnel plans of the firms were geared towards reductions. Further, the Ifo said the decline is set to continue.

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