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Eurozone economy shows glimmers of hope

Wednesday's figures highlighted disparities across the eurozone, which had 17 members in November a¿¿ the bloc grew to 18 members following Latvia's adoption of Europe's single currency at the start of the year.

While countries like Germany and Austria have unemployment rates around 5 percent, those at the forefront of Europe's debt crisis, such as Greece and Spain, have over one in four of their people out of work.

The situation among the young there is even worse, though Greece appears to be showing some improvement on that front, with 54.8 percent of those aged 15-24 out of work at last count in September, compared with 57.7 percent the previous month.

Policymakers are hoping the eurozone's return to economic growth may get unemployment down. So far, the eurozone's recovery from its longest-ever a¿¿ though not deepest a¿¿ recession has been paltry but most economists are predicting a modest pick up this year, with even Greece emerging from a six-year depression that has seen its overall economic output shrink by over a fifth.

Because it takes a few months for changes in economic growth to affect the labor market, and as many governments continue to make spending cuts to get public finances into shape, most economists think it will be some time before there's a real drop in unemployment.

"It is good news that labor shedding has receded so that the number of unemployed is no longer rising, or at least not by much," said Marie Diron, a senior economist adviser at EY, formerly Ernst & Young. "But we think that it will be a long while before we see a fall in unemployment."

Figures for the wider 28-country EU, which includes non-euro countries such as Britain and Poland, also painted a rosier economic outlook. Unemployment across the bloc was 10.9 percent in November, leaving it stable since May, while retail sales spiked 1.2 percent.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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