Eurozone unemployment sees first fall since early 2011

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Eurozone unemployment fell for the first time in two and a half years this summer, but with 19 million people jobless analysts say the labour market remains the weak link in recovery.

In a fresh sign of tentative redress from the eurozone crisis, official data showed unemployment dropping to 12 percent in July and August, against 12.2 percent in June, the first if albeit timid fall since early 2011.

A separate indicator meanwhile showed eurozone manufacturing activity growing for the third month running in September, but a slight slowdown underlined that recovery remains uncertain.

With the exception of France and Greece, which both contracted, every country surveyed by Markit Economics for their Purchasing Managers' Index showed expansion, with the Netherlands at a two and a half year high, followed by Ireland and Germany.

The labour market however remained "the weak link" in the road to renewed growth, the survey said.

The EU's Eurostat statistics agency said the total number of people out of work in the 17 nations sharing the euro fell by 16,000 in August from the previous month to 19.17 million.

But year-on-year from August 2012 that meant unemployment has climbed by 895,000.

Although dole queues may have stopped lengthening over the summer, officials and analysts stressed that the nascent recovery was too fragile to open the way to a strong pick-up in job creation.

The figures "remind us that a robust economic recovery is not yet a reality," said the EU's employment commissioner Laszlo Andor.

"We still have 26.5 million Europeans jobless, with 5.5 million of them under the age of 25," he added, citing figures for the full 28-member European Union, including Croatia which joined in July.

Across the EU, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10.9 percent for the fourth consecutive month.

In the United States in comparison, unemployment stood at 7.3 percent in August, against 7.4 percent the previous month.