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Euro zone unemployment drops: More for Draghi to mull

Unemployment levels among the 19 countries that use the euro fell slightly in October, giving the European Central Bank (ECB) more food for thought as it meets this week to consider stepping up measures to boost the region's economic recovery.

The seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for the euro zone was 10.7 percent in October, down from 10.8 percent in September 2015, and from 11.5 percent in the same month last year, according to data from the European statistics provider Eurostat.

This is the lowest rate recorded in the euro area since January 2012 at the height of the region's economic and debt crisis. The broader 28-country European Union's unemployment figures for October were stable on the previous month's at 9.3 percent.

Nonetheless, in spite of a small improvement in the euro zone's economy, with gross domestic product and business confidence figures pointing up, unemployment levels have remained stubbornly fixed at around 11 percent.

Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A drilldown into the figures show that some euro zone countries are faring far worse than others: In October the German jobless level dropped to 4.5 percent, while in Greece the figure is closer to one in four and in Spain it was one in five.

In the euro zone's so-called peripheral countries -- Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, youth unemployment statistics are far more concerning than the overall total: In Greece and Spain almost every other person aged under 25 is out of work while in Portugal it is one in three.

The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, has repeatedly warned that for unemployment and the economy to improve across the euro zone, structural changes -- such as making it easier to hire and fire employees and easing the barriers to entry in some restrictive trades such as truck drivers and pharmacists - need to be introduced.

The ECB is meeting in Frankfurt this week to decide whether to step on the gas on the central bank's massive trillion-euro bond-buying program to help bolster spending and employment in the region.

"October's fall in euro-zone unemployment suggests that the steady labor market recovery has continued, but joblessness remains too high to stimulate wage growth," Jennifer McKeown, the senior European economist at Capital Economics said in a note after the data.

She noted that these data - along with the business confidence figures - should do little to dissuade the ECB from announcing stronger policy support on Thursday.