Eurozone jobless numbers hold out hope crisis has peaked

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Eurozone unemployment continued near record highs in November at 12.1 per cent but there were signs the bad times may be easing as the debt crisis peaks out, analysts said on Wednesday.

They said other data, notably a sharp improvement in retail sales, suggest the economy could be holding its own again after a soft patch but progress would remain slow.

The eurozone jobless rate came in at 12.1 per cent in November, unchanged from October, while retail sales rose 1.4 per cent by volume, more than reversing a fall of 0.4 per cent in October, the Eurostat statistics agency said.

There were about 19.24 million jobless in the eurozone in November, up 4,000 from October but soaring by 452,000 compared with November 2012 as the debt crisis pushed the economy into a deep recession.

Eurozone unemployment hit a record 12.2 per cent in September but this figure was subsequently revised down to 12.1 per cent.

The unemployment figures show that the "labour market downturn is starting to ease," said James Howat of Capital Economics.

"Although the number of jobless rose slightly (4,000), this only partially reversed October's large fall," Howat noted.

"Looking forward, survey measures of employment intentions suggest that eurozone employment might start expanding again over the coming quarters, albeit at a slow pace."

Howat said that the retail sales figures easily beat forecasts for a November gain of 0.3 per cent to put them at the highest rate since early 2011.

That is evidence "that pressure on households is slowly easing," he said.

"Overall, the outlook is starting to brighten a little for eurozone consumers."

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