Fresh data from the European Union's statistics office have shown that unemployment in the whole bloc and the smaller eurozone is still alarmingly high. But consumer prices have eased further in recent weeks.
Inflation in the 17-member euro area dropped unexpectedly in January to 2 percent, preliminary data from the Eurostat statistics office showed on Friday. It brought consumer price rises into line with the target set by the Central European Bank (ECB).
Eurostat reported the easing of inflation was first and foremost attributable to a 13-percent fall in energy costs last month.
The ECB and private economists appeared in agreement that inflation would drop below 2 percent in the course of the year because of the slowdown in many of the euro area's economies.
Friday's data also revealed that eurozone unemployment remained stubbornly high at 11.7 percent for a third consecutive month in December. Until October, the rate had steadily increased since mid-2011.
The latest figure meant that a total of 18.7 million people were out of work in the bloc, 1.8 million more than in the same month a year earlier. Greece and Spain once again logged the worst figures in December, with overall joblessness above 26 percent and youth unemployment above 55 percent.
Germany posted an unemployment rate of just 5.5 percent, with joblessness of young people between 18 and 25 standing at 8 percent in Europe's biggest economy. In the wider 27-member European Union, the overall unemployment rate remained at 10.7 percent, with 26 million people w