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Eurozone unemployment rate hits record 12.2%

WASHINGTON — The unemployment rate in the Eurozone hit a record 12.2% last month as the region continues to battle a lengthy recession triggered by austerity measures and debt problems in some key nations.

Joblessness has soared over the past two years as the 17-nation, single-currency region fell back into recession after the worldwide global slowdown that hit in 2008-2009.

The unemployment rate reached a new record in April after two months at the previous high of 12.1%, Eurostat, the region's statistical office, said Friday.

The rate was 11.2% one year earlier and has been climbing steadily since mid-2011.

"The rise in the Eurozone unemployment rate to a dismal record high of 12.2% in April highlights the fact that the Eurozone continues to face major headwinds and still has its work cut out to return to growth," said Howard Archer, chief European and United Kingdom economist at IHS Global Insight.

The new data adds to pressure on the European Central Bank to cut interest rates further to try to stimulate the region's economy, he said.

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Eurostat reported this month that the region's recession continued in the first quarter of the year, with the economy contracting 0.2% compared with the previous quarter.

At six straight quarters of economic contraction, the recession is the longest since the single-currency region was created in 1999.

The 2008-2009 recession lasted five quarters.

The Eurozone recession has driven down demand for U.S. goods, hurting the economy here as well.

The highest national unemployment rates in the Eurozone were 27% in Greece (as of February, the latest available date there), 26.8% in Spain and 17.8% in Portugal. All three nations have been dealing with sovereign debt crises.

Germany, the region's largest economy, had the second-lowest unemployment rate in April at 5.4%. Only Austria's 4.9% was lower.

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