Unemployment in the Euro-zone hit a fresh high of 18.2 million in August, the EU statistics agency has said. The number out of work rose by 34.000, but after the July data was revised up, it meant the unemployment rate remained stable at a record high of 11.4%.
The highest unemployment rate was recorded in Spain, where 25.1% of the workforce is out of a job, and the lowest of 4.5% was recorded in Austria. The unemployment rate in Germany was 5.5%, Eurostat said.
Last week, the European Commission warned of the existence of a real social emergency crisis due to the fall in household income and growing household poverty.
Youth unemployment remains a particular concern, with the rate among under-25s hitting 22.8% across the Euro zone, and 52.9% in Spain. The commission repeated its call to governments and businesses to act to try to avoid the disaster of a lost generation.
In Greece, the most recent figures recorded in June show that more than 50% of the young workforce has no job. These two countries have by far the highest unemployment rate in the Euro zone, as both governments look to cut spending and raise taxes to try and cut high debt levels.
These actions, which are needed in Greece to meet the terms of two huge bailouts and in Spain to restore confidence among international investors in Madrid's ability to repay its debts, have exacerbated the unemployment problem.
The Euro zone as a whole is also struggling to generate the economic growth needed to stimulate employment. Its economy shrank by 0.2% between April and June, with Italy and Spain stuck in recession and France registering no growth for the past three quarters.
The notable exception is the German economy, Europe's biggest, which grew by 0.3% in the second quarter. Across the wider 27-nation European Union, unemployment rose by 49.000 to 25.5 million people, Eurostat said, with the unemployment rate stable at 10.5%.
But a commission spokesman said the total was clearly unacceptable. Compared with a year earlier, the unemployment rate rose in 20 countries, fell in six and remained stable in the UK. By way of comparison, the unemployment rate in the US was 8.1% in August and 4.1% in Japan.
The European Commission said last week that disparities between the best and worst performing economies had continued to widen in the second quarter of the year. It also expressed concern about the social situation, which remained very serious.
The number of people experiencing financial stress remains historically high, it said in its latest quarterly review of the jobs situation across the European Union.
Household incomes had declined dramatically in Greece, where disposable incomes had dropped by 15.7% between 2009 and 2011, the commission said. Households in Ireland were living on 9% less.
Child poverty was also becoming an issue for an increasing number of households, particularly in countries where child benefits are inadequate. Almost a fifth of families are at risk of poverty in Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal, the review said.
The August figures are as follows: Spain: 25.1%; Portugal: 15.9%; Ireland: 15%; Italy: 10.7%; France: 10.6%; Germany: 5.5%; Euro-zone: 11.4%; US: 8.1% and Japan: 4.1%, according to Eurostat.