Faced with soaring unemployment, deepening recession, and a widening political backlash, European officials are easing up on two-year-old demands for painful budget cuts from its most debt-gorged members.
The scope of the economic pain was brought into sharper focus last week with the latest jobless data for the 17 euro-area member countries. Nearly 20 million Europeans—some 12.2 percent of the workforce—are without work.
In struggling southern periphery countries locked in a downward spiral of tax increases and spending cuts mandated by Brussels, the job outlook is especially grim. More than one in four Spaniards is out of a job; in Portugal 17.8 percent are unemployed. In February, the latest data available, the Greek unemployment rate had risen to 27 percent.