Regional unemployment fell a sizeable 140,000 to 18.059 million at the start of the year. Following a downward revision to the December reading, the slide was enough to shave another tick off the jobless rate which now stands at 11.2 percent, its lowest mark since April 2012.
There was good news for all four larger economies as the national rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 23.4 percent in Spain and 0.1 percentage points to 10.2 percent in France, 4.7 percent in Germany and 12.6 percent in Italy. Germany was at the bottom of the jobless ladder, just beneath Austria (4.8 percent), while Greece (25.8 percent in November) remained firmly at the top above Spain and Cyprus (16.1 percent).
Promisingly, there were also positive developments in youth unemployment for which the rate declined to 22.9 percent from 23.1 percent in December and 24.3 percent in January 2014.
The January jobless report is surprisingly positive given the apparent sluggishness of the Eurozone economy. Still, the latest dip means that the months which, if sustained, should equate with a brighter outlook for consumer confidence and, hence, spending.
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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