Eurozone Unemployment Edges Down

Eurozone Unemployment Edges Down

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Unemployment across the 19-country eurozone fell in December for the 15th month running to its lowest level in a little more than four years, official figures showed Tuesday.

Statistics agency Eurostat said the number of people out of work decreased by 49,000 to a total of 16.75 million. The last time unemployment was lower was October 2011. As a result, the unemployment rate fell from 10.5 percent to 10.4 percent, its lowest since September 2011.

A spokesman for Eurostat said the run of monthly declines in the number out of work is the longest the eurozone has experienced since a 21-month stretch that ended in June 2007.

Despite the welter of positive signals, the monthly decline was the smallest since June and may add to concerns that the recovery may have been losing some momentum even before the turmoil in financial markets seen this year, which according to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has increased the "downside risks" facing the European economy.

The overall numbers continue to mask big disparities. While Germany's unemployment rate stands at 4.5 percent, according to Eurostat, Greece and Spain remain lumbered by jobless rates above 20 percent.