Unemployment levels in Rome dropped from 11.1 per cent to 6.5 per cent of the labour force between 2001 and 2005, according to a report carried out by Censis, the socio-economic research institute. The figures place Rome among the European capitals with the lowest levels of unemployment. With 6.5 per cent of residents seeking work, the city compares favourably with Brussels (12.8 per cent), Paris (11.6 per cent) and Vienna (9.8 per cent). It is beaten only by London, where unemployment levels are currently 4.1 per cent. The average rate of unemployment in Italy as a whole is 7.7 per cent.

Romes nine universities meanwhile produced around 31,000 graduates in 2004 compared to 19,800 in 2001.

The survey also revealed that the number of businesses in the capital increased by over 9 per cent in the five-year period, from around 142,000 to 155,000, compared to the national average of 4.5 per cent. Business growth in the information technology and research sector was most prolific (25.1 per cent), followed by the building sector (19.3 per cent). The number of businesses dropped only in the manufacturing sector (-4 per cent).

While Italys gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 1.4 per cent between 2001 and 2005, Romes share increased by 6.8 per cent in the same period. The capital held 6.7 per cent of the Italys GDP in 2005, up from 6.3 per cent in 2001.

There was also good news for the tourist industry. Around 19.5 million tourists visited the city in 2005, an increase of 22.8 per cent compared to 2001, and the number of hotel beds in the city rose from 83,000 to 91,000. The number of visitors to the citys museums went up 12.4 per cent between 2001 and 2005 and stood last year at 12.6 million.