Germany leads the way in job growth
The euro zone can be separated into two groups, at least in terms of unemployment: Germany and the rest.
In August, 1.9 million German adults - defined as people at least 25 years old - were counted as unemployed, meaning they were looking for work but had not found it. That figure is the lowest number since 1991, not long after the country was unified.
In the rest of the euro zone, there were 13.9 million unemployed adults. That is the highest number since the euro was created in 1999.
Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency, reported this week that the overall number of unemployed workers in the euro zone countries declined in August for the third consecutive month. That decline was caused by a reduction in the high level of joblessness among those under 25. But unemployment among older workers continued to increase.
While the rates of unemployment among younger workers have skyrocketed, the increase in the number of young unemployed workers since the downturn began has been much less than the increase among older workers - those most likely to have the responsibility to support a family.
Among the countries in the EU, whether or not members of the euro zone, all but Germany now have more adult unemployed workers than at the end of 2007, when the US set off the credit crisis that brought on the Great Recession.
The only EU countries where the current level of unemployment is less than one-third higher than the 2007 level are Austria, Belgium, Finland, Hungary, Malta and Romania. In Germany, the number is down 35 per cent.
Last month, Eurostat reported that the gross domestic product of the euro zone, excluding Germany, rose at an annual rate of 0.5 per cent in the second quarter. That was the first such increase since the second quarter of 2011, and helped to increase investor confidence. But the jobless figures show, at least so far, there is little sign of recovery in the job market.
In the US, the number of unemployed adults peaked in 2009 and has since declined, although it remains 57 per cent higher than at the end of 2007. In Britain, the peak of unemployment came in 2011 and the decline has been slower.
Germany's extraordinary job performance can be traced to several factors. Government programs encouraged companies to cut hours rather than fire people during the crisis, preventing a surge in unemployment.
Germany has since benefited from the euro-zone crisis. Poor economic performance in much of the continent has held down the value of the common currency, and thus helped German exports.