Unemployment across the 17 countries that use the euro ended 2011 at a record high of one person in every 10, official figures showed on Tuesday, a day after EU leaders acknowledged that they would have to boost economic growth with the same urgency that they had shown in combating their nations’ debts.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said the 10.4 percent unemployment rate in December was unchanged at its highest level since the euro was launched in 1999, as November’s was revised upward from a previous estimate of 10.3 percent.

Unemployment has been steadily rising over the past year (in December 2010, it stood at 9.5 percent) largely because of Europe’s debt crisis.

There are huge disparities across the eurozone, however, with those countries at the front line of Europe’s current financial turmoil, such as Greece and Spain, suffering record rates of unemployment that are stoking concerns about the social fabric of their societies; Spain’s unemployment stands at a staggering 22.9 percent and Greece’s is not far behind at 19.2 percent.

What even those figures mask is that unemployment among the young is much, much higher.

Latest figures from Spain show unemployment among people aged under 25 was 48.7 percent, prompting concerns that an entire generation of people could fail to accumulate the necessary skills and experience for a prosperous life. [AP]