Euro zone employment rises to highest level since 2008

September 13, 2016 7:52 AM EDT

A waiter fills up beer mugs in a restaurant at 'Kloster Andechs' in Andechs near Munich, Germany, April 19, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

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By Francesco Guarascio

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone employment reached a new post-crisis high in the second quarter of the year, a positive sign for future economic growth, but trade unions said the number of people employed across the currency bloc was still far too low.

Employment in the 19 countries that use the euro rose 0.4 percent in the second quarter of 2016 compared with the previous three months, and 1.4 percent from the same quarter a year before, the European Union's statistics office said on Tuesday.

Jobs growth was driven mainly by the agriculture and services sectors.

Eurostat estimated that 153.3 million people in the euro zone had a job in the April-June period, the highest number since the fourth quarter of 2008, when the effects of the global financial crisis that began in 2007 were biting.

The rise of the number of people with a job between March and June marked the 10th consecutive quarter of growth in employment levels in the euro zone.

Every euro zone country recorded a rise in employment except Finland, where the figure was flat. Among the euro zone countries with the highest unemployment levels, quarterly employment growth was a healthy 0.8 percent in Cyprus and 0.5 percent in Italy, Spain and Greece.

Eurostat also revised up to 0.4 percent from 0.3 percent its estimates for quarterly employment growth in January-March.

If the employment trend continues in the third quarter, it may help revive economic growth after a slowdown in April-June, providing a counterweight to the likely negative impact of Britain's shock June 23 vote to leave the EU.

"Ongoing solid euro zone employment growth in the second quarter, coupled with still-negligible inflation, is supportive to consumer spending, thereby fuelling hopes that consumers can make a decent contribution to Eurozone growth over the coming months," said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS.

Despite the positive trend, the euro zone's overall unemployment rate remained above 10 percent in July and joblessness is much higher in some countries.

"Employment is far too low, with too many people trapped in part-time and temporary work, and other precarious contracts," Veronica Nilsson of the European Trade Union Confederation said on Tuesday, urging more public investment and higher pay.

In the 28-country European Union, the employment rate between April and June grew 0.3 percent on the quarter, slightly less than the 0.4 percent increase recorded in the January-March period. Employment rose 1.5 percent from a year before, more than the 1.4 percent increase recorded in the first quarter.

Eurostat estimated that 232.1 million people in the EU had a job in the second quarter, the highest level on record.

For further details of Eurostat data click on:

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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