BRUSSELS (AP) -- Some 1.9 million jobs disappeared across the European Union in the first three months of this year -- the sharpest drop in payroll numbers on record, the EU statistical agency Eurostat said Monday.
Falling demand for goods and services both in Europe and in export markets is forcing companies to shed workers, sending jobless numbers to the highest level in a decade.
Eurostat said the number of people employed in the EU fell 0.8 percent in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2008, the worst drop since it started collecting figures in 1995.
The number of workers in the 16 nations that use the euro also fell 0.8 percent from the previous quarter as the region shed 1.2 million jobs.
Just under 223.8 million people were employed in the EU in the first quarter, 146 million of them in euro-zone nations, Eurostat said.
EU business federation BusinessEurope forecasts that some 4.5 million workers may lose their jobs this year as company profits plunge. It represents more than 20 million European companies.