BRUSSELS (AP) — The unemployment rate across the 18-country eurozone remained at a near-record 12 percent in January and inflation was stable at a low level, according to official data released Friday.
Some 19.175 million were without a job across the eurozone, or 17,000 more than in December. The jobless rate has held steady since October, the statistics agency Eurostat said Friday.
The inflation rate, which stayed at 0.8 percent in February, is well below the European Central Bank's target rate of around 2 percent. Some analysts say the low rate means the bloc risks falling into deflation, when a drop in prices leads companies and consumers to delay purchases and investments, hurting growth.
A further drop in the inflation rate would have increased the pressure on the ECB to ease monetary policy further to shore up the recovery ahead of its rate-setting meeting next week.
"Stable eurozone consumer inflation ... eases pressure on the ECB to take further stimulative action," said analyst Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight.
The unemployment rate for the wider 28-nation EU — which also includes members like Britain and Poland who don't use the euro currency — has also remained stable since October at 10.8 percent.
The Europe-wide statistics hide huge differences between economies. The unemployment rate is lowest in Austria and Germany at around 5 percent and stands at about 26 percent in Spain and 28 in Greece.
Youth unemployment, meanwhile, edged down across Europe. The rate of jobless for those aged under 25 in the eurozone fell by 0.1 percentage points to 24 percent, with 87,000 less jobless. In the wider EU, 171,000 young people found a job, bringing the unemployment rate down from 23.7 percent to 23.4 percent.
Youth unemployment was highest in Greece and Spain, where almost six out of ten under 25 are jobless, and lowest in Germany with a rate of only 7.6 percent.
Following last year's light recession, the eurozone is expected to grow by 1.2 percent in 2014 and by 1.8 percent next year, according to the most recent forecasts by the European Commission.
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