Eurozone unemployment falls below 10%, first since April 2011

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BRUSSELS: Unemployment in the eurozone has fallen below the symbolic mark of 10 percent for the first time since April 2011, EU data showed on Thursday.

The fall is a welcome boost to the European economy, which is muddling through a slow recovery from the eurozone debt crisis and faces new problems such as Brexit and the rise of political populism.

The data showed that unemployment in the 19-nation eurozone fell below the 10-percent mark in September, after the Eurostat statistics agency revised their figure for that month to 9.9 percent.

In October the jobless rate fell further to 9.8 percent, the lowest level in seven years and much lower than the forecast 10 percent by analysts at Bloomberg.

Countries facing key elections performed well, with unemployment in Italy falling to 11.6 percent just days ahead of a referendum that could decide the fate of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

A second consecutive fall in France left the rate at 9.7 percent, a significant development ahead of presidential elections next year that could see the rise of the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

More jobs “are key if eurozone consumers are to make a solid contribution to growth over the coming months,” said analyst Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight.

“A concern going forward is that heightened political uncertainty could weigh down on business confidence and lead to (more) caution over employment and investment,” he said.

During the worst of the debt crisis, unemployment in the single currency bloc peaked at 12.1 percent.

Improvement since then has been painfully slow, with the economy still short of the 7.5-percent jobless rate seen before the 2007-08 financial crash.

Though the “labour market recovery has regained some pace … the rate of unemployment is still high and recent developments are consistent with pretty slow wage growth,” warned Daniel Christen of Capital Economics.

As usual one of the lowest jobless rates was in powerhouse Germany, at 4.1 percent, while the highest rates were in debt-laden Greece at 23.4 percent and Spain with 19.2 percent.

By headcount, there were some 15.9 million people without jobs in the eurozone in October, down 190,000 from September and 1.8 million fewer compared with October 2015.

Unemployment in the full 28-nation EU fell to 8.3 percent in October from 8.4 percent in September, hitting levels last seen in February 2009, Eurostat said.

AFP

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