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Eurozone unemployment falls to 9-year low as recovery strengthens

BRUSSELS, Jan 9, 2018 (BSS/AFP) - Europe's economic recovery is deepening, data showed on Tuesday, with eurozone unemployment falling to its lowest level since January 2009.

The EU's official statistics agency said that the jobless rate in the single currency area fell to 8.7 percent in November, hitting analyst predictions and down from 8.8 percent in October.

Unemployment for the EU as a whole in November was 7.3 percent -- the lowest since October 2008, Eurostat said.

The positive data come after the European Central Bank (ECB) announced it was starting to wind down the massive support it has given the 19-member currency zone to help it through the crises of recent years, in view of the solid economy.

But the ECB remains concerned about the muted levels of inflation in the eurozone despite the positive jobs picture, which should typically boost prices with Europeans more ready to spend.

Eurozone inflation is still stubbornly low -- slowing to 1.4 in December compared with the ECB's target of 2.0 percent -- which has forced bank chief Mario Draghi to reassure investors the era of cheap money was not completely over.

Eurostat said that the unemployment rate fell for all the EU's member states compared to a year before, with the biggest drops seen in Greece and Portugal, two of the biggest victims of the eurozone debt crisis.

But unemployment remained high in Greece on 20.5 percent in September, the last month for which figures were available, Spain at 16.7 percent, and Italy at 11.0 percent, ahead of March elections.

German unemployment remained super-low with 3.6 percent in November, as well as the Netherlands, with 4.4 percent.

At the worst of the debt crisis in 2013, unemployment reached a record 12.1 percent.

Since then, the economic situation has slowly improved, but unemployment remains much higher than the average rate before the crisis, when it was 7.5 percent.