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Eurozone unemployment steady near record high

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JUERGEN BAETZ | April 1, 2014 06:41 AM EST | AP

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The unemployment rate across the 18-country eurozone was steady near record highs in February, official data showed Tuesday, indicating the economic recovery is not sufficiently strong to create enough new jobs.

While the number of jobless dropped slightly, the unemployment rate remained flat at 11.9 percent, where it has been since October, according to Eurostat, the European Union's statistical agency. It peaked at 12.1 percent last year.

"The figures suggest that the economic recovery is still too weak to make a significant dent in the high level of unemployment," said analyst Jonathan Loynes of Capital Economics.

The rate for the wider 28-nation EU — which includes members like Britain and Poland that don't use the euro currency — dipped to 10.6 percent from 10.7 percent in January.

Some 65,000 people found new jobs during the month in the wider EU and 35,000 in the eurozone.

The number of unemployed in the EU was down by 785,000 over the previous 12 months, during which time the economy emerged from recession and the recovery spread to the most crisis-hit economies in southern Europe.

"While this is relatively encouraging, unemployment remains worryingly high ... and seems unlikely to come down markedly any time soon given probably gradual recovery," said Howard Archer, an analyst with IHS Global Insight.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, predicts the eurozone economy will grow 1.1 percent this year while the EU's will expand 1.4 percent. That would pale in comparison to the U.S. economy, which some expect to grow 3 percent, but would still be the bloc's best performance since 2011.

The eurozone unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 dropped slightly from 23.6 percent in January to 23.5 percent in February, echoed by a drop from 23 percent to 22.9 percent for the wider EU.

The overall unemployment rates continue to mask huge national disparities.

In Spain, which has the bloc's highest rate alongside Greece, the overall unemployment rate fell from 25.8 percent in January to 25.6 in February. In Italy, the rate continued an uninterrupted climb from about 12 percent a year earlier to 13 percent in February.

In Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, the jobless rate remained flat at a low 5.1 percent, and it dropped slightly to 4.8 percent in Austria, according to Eurostat.

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