By PAN PYLAS
LONDON (AP) â¿¿ Further evidence emerged Wednesday that the eurozone economy is on the mend after struggling with a recession that's seen unemployment edge toward the 20 million mark.
Figures from Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, showed that the number of unemployed across the 17 European Union countries that use the euro fell by 24,000 in June to 19.27 million. That's the first fall since April 2011 and adds to the weight of recent evidence that suggests the recession in the eurozone has â¿¿ or is about to â¿¿ come to an end.
"While the latest data are far from suggesting a quick turnaround, the stabilization provides some relief from the relentless rise in the number of unemployed to date," said Timo del Carpio, European economist at RBC Capital Markets.
The eurozone's economy has been shrinking since the last quarter of 2011 as a raging debt crisis prompted many countries to pursue tough austerity policies that weighed on economic activity and confidence.
However, many analysts think figures next month will show the region may have eked out modest growth during the second quarter, thanks mainly to a rebound in Germany, Europe's biggest economy.
On top of that, other countries' output â¿¿ even for those at the forefront of Europe's debt crisis â¿¿ do not appear to be contracting on such a large scale as earlier on in the year.
That's partly due to a combination of the scale of spending cuts and tax increases in certain countries easing in the last few months and a calmer backdrop in financial markets. Another reduction in the European Central Bank's main interest rate to the record low of 0.5 percent has also helped to shore up economic activity.
Figures this week showed that the Spanish recession nearly ended in the second quarter while there are hopes that even Greece â¿¿ the epicenter of the region's debt woes â¿¿ may start growing again at the end of this year following a recession that's wiped out around a fifth of the country's output.