The jobless rate in the eurozone fell to 10.3 per cent in January
In recent months, the European currency bloc has made some gradual progress in whittling down its jobless ranks, amid efforts to rev up its economy after emerging from recession more than two years ago. But many still consider unemployment to be unacceptably high.
The jobless rate has fallen for the fifth time in six months, as ING Bank analyst Bert Colijn noted. The industry expectation had been that unemployment would remain at the previous month's rate of 10.4 per cent.
"The pace of declines in unemployment has clearly accelerated over the past half year, boosting domestic demand in an otherwise troubled economy," Colijn said, adding that this should provide "some tailwind for growth in the months ahead."
But Jack Allen of the Capital Economics think tank warned that "it would take sharper falls in unemployment to boost wage growth," while pointing to business indications that the "labour market recovery is slowing."
The number of jobless people in the 19-member eurozone fell to 16.65 million, 105,000 fewer than in November, according to Eurostat.
Youth unemployment remained much higher than the overall figure, at 22 per cent.
Germany recorded the lowest rates, with overall joblessness at 4.3 per cent and youth unemployment at 7.1 per cent.
At the other extreme, in Greece 24.6 per cent were without work in November - the most recent data available for the country - while youth unemployment stood at 48 per cent.
In the wider, 28-country European Union, joblessness stood at 8.9 per cent in January, with 21.8 million people out of work, Eurostat said.