Fewer than 60 percent of Italians aged 20 to 64 were employed in 2013, far below the EU average of 68.3 percent.
The new figure sees Italy slip to figures not seen for over a decade, with last year’s rate just higher than the 59.2 percent recorded in 2002. Between then and 2008 the situation steadily improved for workers in Italy, until the global financial crisis struck and led to a steady decline in employment.
According to the European Commission data, Italy now has one of the worst employment rates in Europe, just slightly higher than Spain’s 58.2 percent. Only Greece, with 53.2 percent, and Croatia (53.9 percent) fared worse in 2013.
Northern European countries have the best rates of employment, with Sweden topping the chart at 79.8 percent. The Nordic nation was closely followed by economic powerhouse Germany, with 77.1 percent.
The figures point to a growing north-south divide in Europe, with the difference between the best and worst employment rate reaching 26.6 percentage points last year - up from 19.4 just three years earlier.
Figures released in April showed a gradual improvement for jobseekers in Italy, however, with the employment rate creeping up by 0.3 percent in March.
But the country’s unemployment rate remains at a record high of 12.7 percent and is worse still for young people, with the jobless rate hitting 42.7 percent among the under-25s.