Portuguese Prime Minister and leader of centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) Pedro Passos Coelho (C) talks with Spain's former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez (L) beside Italy's former Prime minister Mario Monti (R) during the international conference Project Europe in Madrid on February 28, 2014. The two day conference brings together a range of European leaders from public and private sectors and the media to discuss Europes current challenges and opportunities withkey themes being youth unemployment, investment and jobs, labor mobility, migration, and the upcoming 2014 European Parliamentary elections.
ROME (AP) - Italy's new premier has vowed that his government's top focus will be reducing unemployment, which has hit a new high.
Premier Matteo Renzi tweeted during a Cabinet meeting Friday that the 12.9 percent unemployment figure for January was "shocking." He pledged to focus efforts of his week-old government on his so-called Jobs Act. That is his plan for legislation to encourage hiring by slashing payroll taxes and allowing more flexibility in how permanent contracts are given.
January's figure was up 0.2 percentage points from December. Also worrisome was a record 42.4 percent unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 24. In the south, youth unemployment soared past 51 percent. Even in the industrial north, nearly one of out of every three people in that age range is unemployed.