BRUSSELS (AP) -- Nearly half of Europe's unemployed stay out of work for at least a year, a European Union report said Monday, far more than in the U.S.
Some 4 million people have lost their jobs since last year's financial crisis triggered an economic downturn across the 27-nation bloc, which is not expected to fully recover until 2011.
The EU's executive commission said long-term unemployment in the region is a serious threat because "close to 45 percent of all unemployment spells last longer than a year compared with only about 10 percent in the United States."
On average, workers over the age of 55 are out of work for nearly 15 months, people between 25-54 are jobless for 12 months while younger people under 25 take around 10 months to find another job.
The EU warned that strict employment protection legislation tends to increase long-term unemployment. It is urging EU nations with a high number of people out of work for long periods to learn from Denmark and Britain, where looser rules make companies readier to hire and fire workers.
The EU is expected to lose 7 million jobs this year and next year, with unemployment rising to over 10 percent in 2010. The EU jobless rate was 9.2 percent in September. Young men and workers with temporary contracts are the worst affected, the EU commission says.
Jobless rates have risen the fastest in Spain, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia where the downturn put the brakes on booming economies with rocketing house prices.