Portugal endures worst recession in 37 years

A woman talks on the phone as stands next to closed tickets counters at Lisbon's Santa Apolonia train station during a 24-hours strike by Portuguese railway workers, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. The strike was a part of a week of disruptions and protests throughout the country by general transport workers, that included trains, buses, subway and boats. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- Portugal's statistics agency says the economy contracted 3.2 percent last year — its sharpest annual downturn since 1975.

Portugal is enacting broad debt-reduction measures, including tax hikes and pay and pension cuts, in return for a €78 billion ($102 billion) international financial lifeline it received in May 2011. Those austerity policies are widely blamed for the deepening recession and growing hardship.

The National Statistics Institute said Monday that a drop in private consumption and slower export growth were the main factors behind the slump, with the economy shrinking 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter.

Unemployment stands at 17.6 percent, the third-highest rate in the 27-nation bloc after Greece and Spain.

The economy contracted 1.6 percent in 2011. The government predicts a 2 percent contraction this year.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting