updated 12/3/2003 3:25:26 PM ET 2003-12-03T20:25:26

The unemployment rate in the 12 nations that share the euro currency was unchanged at 8.8 percent in October for the seventh month in a row, data from the European Union statistics agency showed Tuesday.

While steady for most of the year, the jobless rate is expected to rise before the end of the year and then decline as the expected economic recovery takes hold in 2004. A survey of the manufacturing sector published Monday found companies were still laying off workers in November, despite a rise in new orders.

For the full 15-nation EU, the jobless rate was 8 percent in October, also unchanged from September, Eurostat reported. Britain, Denmark and Sweden do not use the euro.

The October data are unlikely to have a big impact on the deliberations of the European Central Bank’s governing council when it meets Thursday to set interest rates. With growth still anemic, a rate hike isn’t expected until mid-2004 at the earliest.

Rates of unemployment varied widely across the currency area, with Luxembourg recording a jobless rate of 3.9 percent while Spain recorded a jobless rate of 11.2 percent.

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