Eurozone unemployment seems to be bottoming out

The eurozone’s labor market appears to have stabilized, official figures indicated on Tuesday, another sign that the eurozone economy is recovering from its longest-ever recession.

Though Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said the unemployment rate across the 17-member eurozone held steady at 12 percent in August, it found the number of people out of work fell for the third month running.

That’s the first time the region has enjoyed such a run since April 2011.

In total, the number of unemployed dipped by 5,000 to 19.18 million, triggering hopes that the 20 million threshold that many economists had been forecasting this year will not be struck and that the 12.1 percent record high booked in June may not be breached.

“The eurozone’s jobless rate is past its peak for the current economic cycle,” said Zach Witton, economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“However, the unemployment rate will fall only gradually as the weak recovery provides limited support to profit margins, giving companies little incentive to boost hiring.”

As usually happens in a recovery, the modest improvement in the labor market has lagged the region’s emergence from recession by a few months.

The economy grew in the second quarter by a modest quarterly rate of 0.3 percent after contracting for six straight quarters, its longest recession since the euro currency was launched in 1999.

Most surveys suggest the eurozone expanded further during the summer months and that the growth won’t rely only on Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

Even Greece, mired in recession for the best part of six years as the global financial crisis morphed into a crippling sovereign debt crisis, is expected to start growing soon.