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Rome to host four-nation job summit ahead of EU summit

Labour ministers from Italy, France, Germany and Spain will meet in the Italian capital for talks on jobs, ahead of a European Union summit later this month, the Italian government said.

The meeting - scheduled for June 14 - is being held "in the context of the prime minister and the government's commitment to forging European policies to boost employment, especially among young people," said a statement from Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta's office.

Letta has demanded that European Council President Herman Van Rompuy put measures to boost employment high on the agenda at the June 27-28 meeting of EU heads of state and government in Brussels.

Young people aged 15-24 have been worst hit by Italy's more than 20-month recession with 40.5 percent unemployed in April, the highest level since central statistics agency Istat's data series began in 1966.

"The meeting, which is the first of its kind, is intended to provide an opportunity for an exchange of views and coordination... of financial and labour policies at national and EU level to best fight joblessness," the statement said.

A rapid improvement in the jobs market was essential to return Europe's stumbling economy to growth, the statement added.

In his maiden speech to the Italian parliament in April, Letta, who leads a coalition government, said creating jobs would be his "top priority".

Italy is mired in its fourth recession since 2001. The main business lobby Confindustria said that over 540,000 jobs were lost between 2007 and 2012 as the country's manufacturing base shrank 10 percent over the period.

Between 2009 and 2012 alone, 55,000 companies went bust, Confindustria said.

Unemployment reached a record 12 percent in April, the highest level since Istat's monthly data began in 2004.