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Low jobless rate won’t cheer up Europe

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Scott Jagow: The European Union says unemployment is at a record low. The jobless rate is 7.2 percent, the lowest its been since the modern E.U. was formed in 1993.

We’re joined now by reporter Megan Williams in Rome. So Megan, is this creating a better feeling about the economy among Europeans?

Megan Williams: Well, that’s the interesting thing about it, is it that it’s not. I mean, inflation is up, and it’s at a six-year high — it hit 3 percent in November. Prices are really high in Europe for food and oil, that’s obviously due to worldwide tendency towards commodities, grains being used as biofuels, all that sort of thing. There have been huge strikes across Europe as well. There’s also the low dollar, certainly exporters are feeling the impact of that. Interest rates are obviously going up, so people aren’t borrowing money. So despite the fact that there seems to be more job stability and less unemployment across Europe, that isn’t translating into confidence.

Jagow: How are you seeing that feeling of uneasiness among people play out in day-to-day life?

Williams: Well Germany, for one, I mean the retail sales in down. In Italy, where I am, retailers are struggling very hard. One thing on the retail scene, on the street level if you will, there’s a lot more what they call here “bancherelle,” just a casual street market. There’s been a huge shift in Italy towards buying from those sorts of places. You know, where people aren’t paying rent, so prices are lower. So the informal, casual markets have had a real boom in Italy and across Europe, and people who have been selling in traditional ways are hurting.

Jagow: OK, Megan Williams in Rome. Thank you.

Williams: Thanks, Scott.

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