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Eurozone unemployment rate hits record low of 7.4 percent

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(BRUSSELS) - The unemployment rate in the eurozone eased in January to 7.4 percent, the lowest level on EU records, figures from the European Union's Eurostat data agency showed on Wednesday.

The rate, which the EU's Eurostat data agency adjusted to take seasonal variations into account, is the lowest on Eurostat's books, which go back to 1993.

It was down from 7.5 percent in December and 8.3 percent in January 2006.

Since peaking at 8.9 percent during an extended period ending in September 2004, unemployment in the eurozone has steadily declined as the economy gathers pace.

In the European Union as a whole, unemployment eased to 7.5 percent -- the lowest rate in Eurostat's records for the bloc going back to 1998 -- in January from 7.6 percent in December and 8.3 percent in January 2006.

Slovenia became the 13th member of the eurozone in January, while Romania and Bulgaria brought European Union membership to 27 when they joined the bloc at the beginning of the year.

Europe's stubbornly high unemployment rates have long been one of the biggest problems faced by the bloc's politicians, who have often ignored many economists' recommendations to ease labour market rules on hiring and firing to tackle the problem.


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