Euro-area unemployment declines to lowest since 2011


Euro-area unemployment retreated in February to the lowest since 2011, continuing its slow decline as the economy grows at a modest pace.
The rate fell to 10.3 percent from 10.4 percent in January, the European Union’s statistics office Eurostat in Luxembourg said on Monday. That matched the median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg survey, though the January number was revised from an initially reported 10.3 percent.
While the unemployment rate in the currency bloc has been almost continuously above 10 percent for more than six years, national figures point to a divide in the region. In Germany, the jobless rate held at 4.3 percent, according to Eurostat. In contrast, it’s 20.4 percent in Spain.
“I see this number as a movement sideways,” said Aline Schuiling, senior economist at ABN Amro Bank NV in Amsterdam. “This is a reflection of what is happening in the economy. Growth has clearly weakened in the second half of last year and the first quarter of this year will also probably be a bit weaker.”
As of April, the ECB is beefing up monthly bond purchases to 80 billion euros ($91 billion) from 60 billion euros, after President Mario Draghi last month unveiled a raft of new measures to spur price growth, including lowering the central bank’s deposit interest rate deeper into negative territory. Inflation hasn’t come near the ECB’s goal of just under 2 percent since 2013, and a moderate economic recovery has been insufficient to counteract falling oil costs.
Economic data last week showed that consumer prices in the 19-nation bloc fell for a second month, while economic confidence in the region declined to the lowest level in more than a year.

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