But the 17-nation eurozone unemployment edged up from 10.8% in February. The EU and eurozone rates are the highest since the creation of the common euro currency in 1999.
There are 12 countries in Europe that have had two or more consecutive quarters in which their gross domestic product has dropped — a condition many economists say define a recession. Nine of the countries are in the eurozone, and three use their own currency.
The United Kingdom, which had an 8.2% unemployment rate in its most recent reading, is the largest economy now in recession.
Even some of the healthier countries in Europe are likely to meet that criteria, including Germany, the EU’s largest economy and one in which unemployment is 5.6%, the fourth-lowest rate on the continent.
German GDP declined 0.2% in the fourth quarter and many economists are forecasting another drop in the first quarter, suggesting Germany could be in recession soon.
By contrast to Europe, the U.S. unemployment rate has been steadily falling, reaching 8.2% in March. The jobless rate here reached a 26-year high of 10.0% in October 2009, but it has declined in six of the last seven months, shaving almost a full percentage point off the 9.1% rate of last August.
Economists surveyed by CNNMoney forecast that the rate will stay unchanged in the April jobs report this Friday, while hiring is expected to pick up to a gain of 160,000 jobs
By Chris Isidore @CNNMoney , Newscribe : get free news in real time
Eurozone manufacturing heads towards recession
(BRUSSELS) – Gloom over eurozone manufacturing deepened in April, highlighting the impact of policies to control budgets and signalling recessionary pressures, a Markit survey showed on Wednesday.
A key index of activity based on a survey by Markit fell to almost the lowest level for three years.
Markit publishes closely watched leading indicators of economic activity and in its latest survey for its purchasing managers’ index the firm said: “The eurozone manufacturing downturn took a further turn for the worse in April.”
The adjusted manufacturing PMI figure, closely watched as an indicator of economic trends, fell to 45.9 from 47.7 in March.
A figure of below 50 points to contraction and Markit noted that “the headline PMI has signalled contraction in each of the past nine months.”
The chief economist at Markit, Chris Williamson, said: “Manufacturing in the eurozone took a further lurch into a new recession in April, with the PMI suggesting that output fell at (a) worryingly steep quarterly rate of over 2.0 percent.”
He said that “austerity in deficit-fighting countries is having an increasing impact on demand across the region” and that “even German manufacturing output showed a renewed decline.”
Williamson commented that the latest forecast from the European Central Bank “of merely a slight contraction of GDP (gross domestic product) this year is therefore already looking optimistic.”
He added: “However, with the survey also showing inflationary pressures to have waned, the door may be opening for further stimulus.”
His remarks highlight controversy over policies in many countries to correct budget deficits and heavy debt to install confidence on debt markets where governments borrow.
There are increasing warnings that the eurozone must raise economic growth, but opinions differ on the best route, with some saying that budget austerity opens the way to structural reform and competitiveness and others saying that extra stimulus is essential.
Markit said that “the April PMIs also indicated that manufacturing weakness was no longer confined to the region’s geographic periphery.”
In Germany, which has the biggest economy in the eurozone and has shown broad resilience to downturn elsewhere, Markit also noted a setback.
“The German PMI fell to a 33-month low, conditions deteriorated sharply again in France and the Netherlands also contracted at a faster rate,” it said.
Markit said: “There was no respite for the non-core nations either, with steep and accelerating downturns seen in Italy, Spain and Greece. Only the PMIs for Austria and Ireland held above the 50.0 no-change mark.”
Markit said that manufacturers reported weak demand from clients inside and outside the zone and this had hit even German companies.
The worsening outlook for eurozone manufacturing was also affecting the job market, Markit said, just as eurozone data put the unemployment rate at a record high level.
In manufacturing “job losses were reported for the third straight month in April, with the rate of decline the sharpest in over two years,” Markit said on the basis of its survey. – AFP.