[BRUSSELS] Eurozone unemployment fell to a near five-year low in May, official data said on Friday, in a rare positive sign for a sluggish European economy struggling to return to solid growth.
The data covers a period before last week's shock Brexit vote, which economists believe has made the eurozone more unstable and could negatively affect growth and job figures in the medium term.
The Eurostat statistics agency said unemployment in the 19-nation eurozone fell to 10.1 per cent in May from 10.2 per cent in April.
The rate fell in with analyst forecasts as the eurozone continues a painfully slow recovery after unemployment hit record highs during the worst of the debt crisis.
"Despite May's decline, the euro-zone unemployment rate ... is still well above the 1999-2007 average of 8.8 per cent," said Stephen Brown European Economist at Capital Economics.
Unemployment in the full 28-nation EU was unchanged at 8.6 per cent in February, Eurostat said.
One of the lowest jobless rate was in powerhouse Germany, at 4.2 per cent, while the highest were in debt-laden Greece at 24.1 per cent and Spain with 19.8 per cent.
Unemployment in the single currency bloc hit a record high of 12.1 per cent during the worst of the debt crisis.
"Given that at least some eurozone firms will probably delay their hiring plans after the fallout of the UK's vote to leave the EU, we still think that the ECB has a lot more work to do...," said Brown.
The European Central Bank launched a massive stimulus programme in early 2015 but to little apparent effect and last month added even more unprecedented measures in an effort to get the economy back on track.