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Photograph: HINA/ Denis CERIĆ/ ds

Unemployment in the eurozone fell in March to 10.2 per cent, reaching its lowest level in nearly five years, new data released on Friday showed.

The European currency bloc has made some progress in whittling down its jobless rate since it hit a record 12.1 per cent in 2013, but many still consider the number of people out of work to be unacceptably high.

The March drop foiled analysts' expectations. They had predicted no change in the unemployment rate, which stagnated at 10.4 per cent for three months.

But the number of jobless people in the 19-country bloc decreased by 226,000 from February to March, reaching a total of 16.4 million. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is now at its lowest level since August 2011, the EU statistics agency Eurostat said.

Just under 3 million people under the age of 25 were among those without a job in March, leading to a youth unemployment rate of 21.2 per cent.

Germany and the Czech Republic recorded the lowest jobless rates, with overall unemployment at around 4 per cent and youth unemployment at 6.9 and 9.8 per cent respectively.

Greece and Spain, meanwhile, continued to report the highest figures, with overall unemployment over 20 per cent and youth unemployment over 45 per cent.

In the wider, 28-country European Union, unemployment also dropped in March to 8.8 per cent, its lowest level in seven years. More than 21 million people were out of work in the bloc, 4.3 million of them under the age of 25.

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