ROME, April 30(Reuters) - Italy's unemployment rate was stable at 11.5 percent in March, data showed on Tuesday, below expected and in line with a downwardly revised figure for February.
The data will be welcomed by new Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who won his first vote of confidence in parliament on Monday and has promised to make job creation his top priority.
However, youth unemployment, measuring job-seekers between 15 and 24 years of age, increased to 38.4 percent from 37.8 percent, national statistics office ISTAT said.
The overall unemployment rate was below the average forecast in a Reuters survey of analysts which pointed to a rise to 11.7 percent. February's data was revised down from an originally reported 11.6 percent.
The employment rate - showing the number of Italians in
work as a proportion of the working age population - edged down to 56.3 percent from 56.4 percent in February.
Letta said in his maiden speech in parliament on Monday that creating jobs and taking Italy out of its longest recession for 20 years will be the top priorities of his left-right coalition government.
Earlier this month ISTAT said that alongside Italy's 2.7 million unemployed in 2012, there were 3 million more who were so demoralised they had given up the search for work and so did not register in official jobless data, a far higher number than in any other EU country.
Analysts say the biggest challenge for Italy is to increase its chronically low rates of employment and participation in the
labour market, which are among the lowest in the industrialized
world, especially among women, the young and the elderly.
In March, there were 51,000 fewer people in work compared with the month before and 248,000 fewer than in February 2012.
March Feb Jan Dec
JOBLESS RATE 11.5 11.5r 11.7 11.2
YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT RATE (15-24) 38.4 37.8 38.6 37.1
EMPLOYMENT RATE (15-64) 56.3 56.4 56.3 56.5
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. All rights reserved.
The copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters News Content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters.