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Eurozone unemployment inches lower

Joblessness in the euro currency area fell slightly in February as growth remained tepid. The sovereign debt crisis is still hampering job creation in Greece and Spain, while the German labor market continues to shine.

According to data released by the EU statistics office, Eurostat, on Monday, unemployment in the 19-nation eurozone edged down to 10.3 percent in February from a revised 10.4 percent in January.

The figure marks a four-and-a-half year low, coming down from record highs of more than 13 percent recorded in the wake of the 2010 sovereign debt crisis in the euro currency area. However, youth unemployment remained much higher than the overall figure, at 21.6 percent.

In February, eurozone employers added 39,000 jobs to their payrolls, driving down the number of people out of work to 16.63 million.

The lowest unemployment rate was reported from Germany

, down to 4.3 percent, and the Czech Republic with 4.5 percent unemployment.

Debt-laden Greece

and Spain had the highest numbers with 24 percent and 20.4 percent respectively.

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Unemployment in the full 28-nation EU was unchanged at 8.9 percent in February, according to Eurostat data, as 21.65 million people were officially registered as unemployed.

Recovery weak despite massive cash

Eurozone job creation is still hampered by

a painfully slow economic recovery

, which according to the European Central Bank (ECB) would continue in the months ahead, but "not as fast as hoped."

"The recovery continues to be dampened by subdued growth prospects in emerging markets, volatile financial markets, the necessary balance sheet adjustments in a number of sectors and the sluggish pace of implementation of structural reforms," the ECB wrote in its March Economic Bulletin.

At the same time, domestic demand in the 19 countries that share the euro, which has been a key pillar of recovery in recent months, "should be further supported by the ECB's monetary policy measures and their favorable impact on financing conditions," the central bank argued.

In a bid to kickstart the eurozone economy,

the ECB cut its key interest rates at its March policy meeting

, extended its asset purchase program - known as quantitative easing - and said it would make massive amounts of cheap liquidity available to banks.

uhe/cjc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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