Jul 31, 8:38 AM EDT

Unemployment, inflation rates stable in 19-nation eurozone as Greece crisis raged on


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BRUSSELS (AP) -- Unemployment and inflation were stable in the 19-nation eurozone in early summer, when the Greek crisis was raging on and raising concerns over the outlook of the currency union.

The European Union's statistical agency, Eurostat, said Friday that the jobless rate stood at 11.1 percent in June, unchanged for a third straight month after declines earlier in the year.

"This the lowest recorded rate in the euro area since March 2012," said EU spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud. "We got some encouraging signs now. We need to continue along this path."

Among the euro member states, Greece had the highest rate at 25.6 percent and Germany the lowest level at 4.7 percent.

The EU's executive Commission has been pushing hard to create job-boosting measures and as of this fall, the European Investment Bank will start selecting projects to invest in using a 315 billion euro program that seeks to create some 1.3 million jobs.

Greece also had the highest level of youth unemployment at 53.2 percent in April, the last month for which it had statistics available. That's more than twice the eurozone average of 22.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the eurozone's annual inflation rate was 0.2 percent in July, the same as the previous month and still well below the European Central Bank's target of 2 percent.

Economists have warned of the risk of a prolonged period of low or negative inflation rates, as that can discourage investment and spending. The ECB this year launched a massive monetary stimulus program to bring up inflation, but it is expected to take months for the rate to rise significantly, particularly since a drop in oil prices is still weighing on the overall level of consumer prices.

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