BRUSSELS: Eurozone unemployment dropped to its lowest level in four years in November, official data showed on Thursday, beating analyst expectations amid lingering doubts about the strength of the economy in Europe.
The improved jobs picture comes as the 19-country single currency bloc is still stuck in a bout of low inflation and weak growth despite unprecedented stimulus measures by the European Central Bank.
The European Union’s Eurostat agency said eurozone unemployment fell to 10.5 percent in November from a revised 10.6 percent in October, hitting the lowest level since October 2011.
Joblessness in the eurozone has gradually fallen from the record 12.2 percent reached in September 2013 as the damaging eurozone debt crisis peaked out.
However, it still remains way above the 7.5 percent levels seen during the economic boom leading up to the financial crash in 2008.
In comparison, unemployment in the much faster growing United States currently stands at 5.0 percent.
Economists worry that growth in Europe, currently set to expand by 1.6 percent in 2015, is too weak to erase the big pockets of unemployment, especially Greece, Spain and Portugal, but also in economic heavyweights France and Italy.
“The number of eurozone jobless has now fallen (by) 1.57 million overall since October 2014. Encouraging, but it needs to come down a lot further,” said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight.
As usual the level of joblessness, which totalled 16.9 million across the eurozone, varied from country to country.
The highest rate was in debt-stricken Greece, at 24.6 percent in September, the latest data available.