BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Euro zone unemployment fell to its lowest level in more than nine years in January thanks to strong economic growth, official estimates showed on Thursday, although large differences in jobless rates remained among the 19 countries of the single currency bloc.
The European Union’s statistics office Eurostat said the unemployment rate in the euro zone was 8.6 percent in January.
Eurostat revised down to 8.6 percent its data for December from a previously estimated 8.7 percent. It said that the January’s reading was the lowest recorded in the euro zone since December 2008.
The number of unemployed fell to 14.111 million people in January from 14.121 million a month earlier.
In January last year, the unemployment rate stood at 9.6 percent, meaning 15.540 million people were jobless.
The steady drop in unemployment levels in the euro zone coincides with a firm economic recovery which reached last year its fastest pace in a decade.
But the reduction of jobless has not been equally distributed across the 19-country bloc.
In Italy, the third largest economy in the euro zone, the unemployment rate rose to 11.1 percent in January from 10.9 percent in December, a poor reading just days before the country holds a general election on Sunday.
In Spain, the bloc’s fourth largest economy, the jobless rate slightly dropped to 16.3 percent in January, while in Germany it remained stable at 3.6 percent. In France it was also unchanged at 9.0 percent.
Even greater differences were seen in youth unemployment numbers, with roughly one youth unemployed every three in Italy and Spain, against a 6.6 percent rate in Germany.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio)
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