Eurozone employment rose for the second consecutive quarter in the first three months of the year in a sign the recovery was finally helping the labour market. A widening trade surplus signalled a further positive contribution to growth in April.
The number of persons employed in the 18 countries sharing the euro rose by 0.1% on the quarter in the three months to March, and was up by 0.2% on the year, the first annual rise since the third quarter of 2011, the European Union’s statistics office said.
In Germany, the eurozone growth engine, employment rose 0.3% on the quarter and 0.8% on the year. In Portugal, which exited an international bailout in May, employment fell 0.3% on the quarter, but jumped 1.8% year-on-year.
Employment in Greece rose on the quarter and slowed its annual fall to 0.5% from 2.6% in the last quarter of 2013, signalling that the eurozone’s troubled periphery was experiencing a gradual recovery in labour markets.
But despite four consecutive quarters of economic growth, 18.7 million people were without jobs in April, and the jobless rate remains close to record highest seen last year.
Separately, data showed that net trade made a positive contribution to growth in April as the trade surplus increased to €15.7 billion, from €14 billion in the same period of 2013.
The higher surplus was mainly because imports, down 3% year-on-year, slowed more than exports, which fell only 1% in April on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected the trade surplus to narrow to €13.9 billion in April, from the originally reported €17.1 billion surplus in March.
EU exports to Russia fell 12% on the year, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis in the first three months of 2104, Eurostat said. Relations between Russia and the EU are tense because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Imports from Russia, which is the EU’s fourth biggest trade partner, fell 9% on the year in the first quarter.