BRUSSELS - The unemployment rate in the euro zone dropped in August to its lowest level in more than a decade continuing its five-year-long downward trend, estimates from the European Union statistics office showed on Monday.
The jobless rate in the 19-country currency bloc fell to 7.4% in August, reaching its lowest level since May 2008 when the euro zone's economy began to feel the negative impact of the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States.
The drop from 7.5% in July prolonged a positive trend begun in August 2014 when unemployment was at 11.5%. Since then, the rate has continuously fallen or has remained every month for five years.
August's fall came as a surprise, as the average forecast of economists polled by Reuters showed the rate was expected to remain unchanged from July.
The jobless rate fell in August in the countries where it is highest, in a sign that economic difference between countries of the bloc are shrinking, although they remain wide.
In Spain, the unemployment fell to 13.8% in August from 13.9% in July, while in Italy it went down to 9.5% from 9.8%. In Greece, the country in the bloc with the highest rate, it dropped to 17.0% in June, the last month for which data are available there.
In Germany, the euro zone's largest economy, the rate was stable at 3.1% in August. In France it was unchaged at 8.5%.