Matteo Renzi
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi plans to introduce some controversial job reforms to combat joblessnessReuters

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been dealt a blow after his country's youth unemployment rate hit a record high of 44.2% in August, according to Istat.

The Italian national statistics bureau said the jobless rate (for 15 to 24-year-olds) in the embattled country jumped from 43.2% in July.

The hike means the youth unemployment rate hit its highest level since the statistical series began in 1977.

In comparison, the Office for National Statistics said the UK had a youth unemployment rate (16 to 24 year olds) of 16.6% in the three months to July.

Istat also said Italy total unemployment rate fell to 12.3% in August, down from 12.6% in July.

The drop means there were 3.1 million jobless people in Italy in August.

Italy's employment rate increased to 55.7% in August, up from 55.6% in July.

The figures come after Renzi got the backing of his own party to pass legislation to make it easier for employers to sack workers.

The leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, known as PD, also got backing of his party to cut the number of short-term contracts and increase employment agency activity.

But former Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, also a member of PD, slammed Renzi for governing with "slogans and advertising".