ECONOMY

Unemployment falls as industrial production jumps 1.9 percent

Greek unemployment fell and industrial production rose the most in three months, according to data published Thursday, as the cash-strapped government continues to press for new aid money.

The unemployment rate slipped to 25.7 percent in January from 25.9 percent in December. While the decline was modest, it still marks the lowest rate in 2 1/2 years. The 1.9 percent annual increase in industrial production in February followed a 0.2 percent decline in January.

As Greece’s government negotiates with creditors before the country runs out of funds, the economy is scarred by the aftermath of recession, with unemployment still near a record and prices plunging. Separate data showed consumer prices fell an annual 1.9 percent in March.

Greek officials are targeting an April 24 meeting of euro-area finance ministers as a deadline for approval to unlock aid, though even that money may provide limited respite. The government made a loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund on Thursday, to be followed by a European Central Bank bill which falls due this summer, further depleting the nation’s resources.

The negotiations on more aid are focused on honing an initial agreement reached in February. European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said earlier Wednesday that there was “progress step by step.”

[Bloomberg]