FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The unemployment rate in the 19 countries that use the euro inched down to 10.3 percent in February in another token of the currency union's modest recovery.
The rate fell from 10.4 percent in January, the European Union's statistics agency Eurostat said Monday. January's figure was revised up from 10.3 percent.
The job numbers underlined that Europe's recovery remains only moderate. The number of jobless people fell by only 39,000 in February, compared to a drop of 118,000 in January. Still, there are 1.3 million fewer people without work compared to the same month a year earlier, and the jobless rate is the lowest since August 2011.
"Fewer eurozone jobless, together with deflation-negligible inflation, should be supportive to consumer spending," wrote Howard Archer, chief European and UK economist at IHS Economics, in an emailed note. "Consumer spending will likely be key if eurozone growth can regain momentum over the coming months after stuttering recently."
Archer said he expected the jobless rate to dip under 10 percent later this year.
Germany had the lowest jobless rate at 4.3 percent thanks to a strong domestic economy and its traditional export strength in machines and auto.
But the rate remains painfully high in Spain at 20.4 percent and Greece at 24.0 percent.
The European Central Bank last month increased its stimulus measures to boost the recovery and raise weak inflation. Those steps include pumping newly printed money into the banking system through bond purchases in an attempt to expand credit to companies.