Progress reports for the Italian economy at the end of the third quarter show higher prices, rising unemployment, a widening trade deficit, increased public debt and GDP growth hovering around zero.

In September, a study by national statistics institute, ISTAT, monitoring the labour market counted 1.7 million Italians in search of work, 300,000 more than in September 2007, up around 20 per cent over the same time last year. This coincides with an increase in the work force of around 1.2 per cent, which ISTAT says is accounted for by the increase in the immigrant population and the proliferation of part-time and seasonal contracts.

ISTAT figures also showed inflation in September leveling out at 3.8 per cent compared with 4.1 per cent in August.

Preliminary findings of an ISTAT study to be released in mid-October show Italy