Greece's jobless rate rose to a record of 21.8% in January, twice as high as the eurozone average, statistics service ELSTAT said this morning.

Youth unemployment remained at levels where more are jobless than in work.

Greece's average annual unemployment rate for 2011 jumped to 17.7% from 12.5% in 2010, according to ELSTAT figures. December's rate was 21.2%.

For the second consecutive month, those aged between 15 and 24 were hit hard. Unemployment in that age group stood at 50.8%, twice as high as three years ago.

Greece's economy is estimated to have shrunk by about a fifth since 2008, when it plunged into its deepest and longest post-war recession. About 600,000 jobs, more than one in 10, have been destroyed in the process.

A record 1.08m people were without work in January, 47% more than in the same month last year, according to ELSTAT figures.

The number in work dropped 8.6% to a record low of 3.88m.

As an increasing number of people claim unemployment benefits, the government is finding it increasingly difficult to meet its budget targets.

The finance ministry announced yesterday that the deficit of its central government budget had widened by 53% in the first quarter, compared with a target to narrow it by 38% in the full year.

For many of those still in work, the situation is also worse.

Under the terms of its EU/IMF bailout, the country's second since 2010, Greece slashed its minimum monthly wage by about a fifth to about €580, gross, to encourage hirings.

Starting this month, Greek unemployment figures are being adjusted for seasonal factors.

The average jobless rate in the 17 countries sharing the euro rose slightly in January to 10.7%, from 10.6% in December.