The unemployment rate in the eurozone came in at 7.4% in May, as the region grapples with the economic shock from Covid-19.
It comes after a number of European economies took their first steps to reopen in May, which has allowed some workers to return to their jobs. However, the social-distancing measures that remain in place and ongoing travel restrictions are limiting the pace of the recovery. 
The unemployment rate in the 19-member region rose to 7.4% — the worst reading since November last year. According to the European statistics office, the number means that 12.146 million people in the euro area were unemployed in May.
Youth unemployment, those aged between 15 and 24, also increased to 16% in May, from 15.7% in April. 
Some economists are expecting much worse unemployment figures going forward as governments reduce benefit schemes. At the height of the sovereign debt crisis during the last decade, the euro area experienced an unemployment rate of just above 12%.
Speaking on Friday, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said the world may be past the worst of the pandemic, though she cautioned that there is a risk of a second wave of infections.
The ECB has forecast a contraction of 8.7% in eurozone gross domestic product for the whole of 2020, followed by a rebound of 5.2% economic growth in 2021. 

Youth unemployment

ValuesPercentageJanuary 2008May 2008September 2008January 2009May 2009September 2009January 2010May 2010September 2010January 2011May 2011September 2011January 2012May 2012September 2012January 2013May 2013September 2013January 2014May 2014September 2014January 2015May 2015September 2015January 2016May 2016September 2016January 2017May 2017September 2017January 2018May 2018September 2018January 2019May 2019September 2019January 20202012.51517.522.52527.5Highcharts.comOctober 2009 Percentage: 22
  • 24.4%Youth unemployment in 2013
  • 15.4%Youth unemployment in April 2020  
The 2020 figure is still more than double the average general unemployment rate. Now many fear a spike just ahead.

The European Union is helping EU countries tackle this challenge head-on by proposing:

Apprenticeship©️ European Union, 2017 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service
  • a Bridge to Jobs – reinforcing the Youth Guarantee
  • future-proofing the EU’s vocational education and training (VET) policy
  • a renewed impetus for apprenticeships
  • additional measures supporting youth employment

The EU is investing tens of billions of euros in powering the recovery plan for young people. Member States need to prioritize investments that can help young people in the short and medium-term.

A Bridge to Jobs: reinforcing the youth guarantee

If you sign up for the Youth Guarantee, you will receive an offer of employment, education, apprenticeship, or a traineeship within four months.
The EU created the Youth Guarantee in 2013 and has since built bridges to the labor market for more than 24 million young people
The new and improved Bridge to Jobs will: 
clock with an arrow and numbers Cover young people aged between 15 and 29arrows pointing inwards Be more inclusive, with a wider outreach focusing especially on disadvantaged groups
wired leaf Link in with the needs of companies, especially SMEs, providing the skills required - in particular those for the green and digital transitionscartoon bubbles Provide tailored counselling, guidance and mentoring

Future-proofing the EU’s vocational education and training policy

Vocational education and training (VET) help young people get ready for their first job and allow adults to learn new skills and develop their careers. It will be an essential part of helping young people enter the workforce during recovery. With its proposed Recommendation, the Commission is taking a fresh approach to vocational education and training, making it more modern,  attractive, flexible, and fit for the digital age and green transition.

A renewed impetus for apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a win-win:
  • companies get the skilled labor force they need for the future 
  • young people develop their skills and find work 
EU action will help boost apprenticeship offers, for example by incentivizing support to SMEs and mobilizing local and regional authorities. The European Alliance for Apprenticeships has been instrumental in creating more than 900,000 apprenticeship opportunities for young people since its launch in 2013. The Commission will renew it to trigger fresh commitments for digital and green apprenticeships. 
The Commission also urges EU countries to step up youth employment support through Next Generation EU and the future EU budget. The overall ambition is that Member States invest EU funding of at least €22 billion in youth employment
For example, the EU can help fund: 
Rocket iconStart-up grants and loans for young entrepreneurs, mentoring schemes and business incubators 
Curriculum VitaeBonuses for SMEs hiring apprentices
person giving a trainingTraining sessions to acquire new skills needed on the labor market
A gearCapacity-building of public employment services
Person giving speechCareer management training in formal education
computer with learning programInvestments in digital learning infrastructure and technology