hzz, work rad zaposlenost radnici labour.jpg
Photograph: HINA

The jobless rate in the eurozone edged down to 10.3 per cent in February, according to data released Monday by the EU statistics agency Eurostat, as the currency bloc makes slow progress in whittling down its unemployment figures.

The 19-member eurozone is struggling to rev up its economy after emerging from recession more than two years ago. Despite making some headway, many still consider the number of people out of work to be unacceptably high.

Analysts had expected the jobless data to stay unchanged from the previous month, but the figures mark a 0.1-percentage-point drop after Eurostat revised the January data up to 10.4 per cent.

The February rate is the lowest since August 2011.

ING bank analyst Bert Colijn welcomed a 13th consecutive month of declining unemployment, noting that the labour market has provided "tailwind," while "dark clouds packed over the eurozone economy."

But Jennifer McKeown of the Capital Economics think tank spoke of indications that the labour market recovery is "beginning to lose pace," while "wage growth has remained very subdued." 

She predicted that the labour market would not be able to drive up inflation in the eurozone, which remained stuck below zero in March according to a first estimate released Friday, and said the European Central Bank would have to do more to boost consumer prices.

The Frankfurt-based bank has an inflation target of just below 2 per cent.

The number of jobless people in the eurozone dipped to 16.63 million - 39,000 fewer than in January - according to Eurostat.

Youth unemployment remained much higher than the overall figure, at 21.6 per cent.

Germany recorded the lowest rates, with overall joblessness at 4.3 per cent and youth unemployment at 6.9 per cent.

At the other extreme, in Greece 24 per cent were without work in December - the most recent data available for the country - while youth unemployment stood at 48.9 per cent.

In the wider, 28-country European Union, joblessness remained stable at 8.9 per cent in February, with 21.65 million people out of work, Eurostat said.

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