Retail trade in the 16 nations that use the euro slid by a record 4.2 percent in March from a year ago, the EU statistics agency said Wednesday, as recession-hit shoppers cut back over worries on rising unemployment.
The European Union said some 8.5 million jobs will disappear this year and next year as the economies of both the euro area and the 27-nation European Union shrink by 4 percent.
Business and consumer confidence figures for the euro-zone hit the lowest point in 24 years in March as shoppers said they were more worried about unemployment, the general economic situation and their own savings in the year ahead.
Confidence picked up slightly in April — the first uptick in two years. Eurostat said retailers across the EU saw trade fall 3.1 percent in March. Both regions saw big falls in sales of food, drinks and tobacco which dropped by 5.2 percent in the euro area and by 3.7 percent in the EU.
The three Baltic nations saw the worst tumble as a boom turned rapidly to bust. Latvian retailers reported a 27.3 drop in sales, Lithuanian shops were down 21.1 percent and Estonia fell 16.6 percent.
Germany, the region’s biggest economy, was down 1.9 percent. France fell 3.9 percent and Spain — badly hit by the collapse of the housing market and a soaring jobless rate — decreased 8.2 percent.Britain was the only large European country to see sales climb, by just 0.8 percent. Belgium posted a 2.1 percent increase, while Austria rose 2 percent.