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As more EU companies lay off workers, unemployment rises to its highest level in more than two years. The EU jobless rate rises from a revised 8.1 percent in December, and above the 7.3 percent figure in January 2008, according to a report from the BBC. Annualized inflation in the 16-nation area falls to 1.1 percent in January, its lowest in nearly a decade, down from 1.6 percent in the year to December 2008. According to EU officials, the EU has been in recession since September 2008. The latest unemployment and inflation figures increase pressure on the European Central Bank (ECB) to further cut interest rates in an effort to bolster the economy and bring inflation closer to its 2 percent target. The ECB trims rates by half a percentage point to 2 percent in January, the fourth reduction since September, when rates stood at 4.25 percent. “January’s rise in unemployment and further fall in core inflation support our view that ECB interest rates have much further to fall,” says Jennifer McKeown, an analyst at Capital Economics. “The downturn in the labor market, and indeed the wider economy, points to a further fall in core inflation in the coming months.” Unemployment among European Union nations is highest in Spain, at 14.8 percent, and lowest in the Netherlands, at 2.8 percent. [BBC, 2/27/2009]
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