Eurozone labour markets comfortably exceeded expectations in in December. A 157,000 monthly drop in the number of people out of work was enough to shave a tick off the jobless rate which now stands at 11.4 percent, its lowest level since August 2012.
December's decline in the unemployment rate was the first since August and reflected falls in three of the four larger member states. Italy led the way with a sizeable 0.4 percentage point decline to 12.9 percent while both Germany (4.8 percent and the lowest in the Eurozone) and Spain (23.7 percent) saw their national rates dip just a tick. France (10.3 percent) was unchanged. At the top of the jobless ladder was Greece (25.8 percent in October) ahead of Spain and Cyprus (16.4 percent).
Youth unemployment fell 168,000 versus December 2013 for a jobless rate of 23.0 percent, down from 23.9 percent.
Today's jobless data make for unexpectedly positive reading for Eurozone policymakers but for many national governments the bottom line is that unemployment is still too high and a number must be looking nervously over their shoulders at recent political developments in Greece.
The unemployment rate measures the number of unemployed as a percentage of the labor force.
Unemployment data are closely monitored by the financial markets. These data give a comprehensive report on the state of the economy and its future direction. A rising unemployment rate can be a warning sign of hard times while a low rate can be a warning of inflation as wages are bid up to attract labor.
Unemployment data are expressed in both a numerical value and as a percentage of the labor force. Generally, the definition of those unemployed follows that of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It states that an unemployed person is one between the ages of 15 to 74 years of age who was not employed during the reference week, had actively sought work during the past four weeks and was ready to begin working immediately or within two weeks. The unemployment rate is the percentage of unemployed persons over the total number of active persons in the labor market. Active persons are those who are either employed or unemployed.
Eurostat provides an unemployment rate for each EU country as well as for the EMU and EU as a whole. It should be noted that the unemployment rate for a country will frequently differ with that reported by the national statistics agency. That is because of the varying interpretations of the ILO definition by member states and Eurostat.
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