The rise and sustainment of unemployment has been an unenviable characteristic of European economics in the 1980s. This paper reviews the unemployment evidence and experience in the 1980s for European economies, especially in comparison with the preceding decade. Further comparisons are made with non European economies including Japan, the USA and Australia. The range of explanations for European unemployment in the 1980s are briefly reviewed as are the associated policy options. Recent trends and developments are then assessed.