According to the European Commission’s ‘EU Employment Situation and Social Outlook’ monthly monitor for February 2010, economic growth has resumed in the European Union, although the recovery remains fragile. The EU emerged from recession in the second half of 2009 as GDP returned to positive growth in the third quarter (0.3%), although the growth slowed to 0.1% in Q4. Of the larger Member States, Spain was the only country where the economy continued to weaken in both quarters, although in the fourth quarter growth was negative in Italy and output remained flat in Germany.

Unemployment continued to rise in most Member States, particularly Latvia and Estonia, although there are signs that unemployment rates are stabilising in several EU countries and even declining in some of them. Unemployment across the EU rose by 163,000 in December 2009 (the smallest rise since mid-2008), giving an overall total of approximately 23 million – up 4.6 million since December 2008 (an increase of 25% over the year) and 7 million since March 2008 (an increase of 44%) when EU unemployment was at a relative low.