BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone unemployment was stable for the second consecutive month in May at 11.6 percent, official data showed on Tuesday, underlining that the recovery in the bloc is far from strong enough to spur solid job creation in all countries.
Around 18.5 million people were without a job in May in the 18 countries sharing the euro, although that was 28,000 fewer than in April, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said.
"A mild recovery continues but it is still leaving many people behind," European Commissioner for Employment Laszlo Andor said.
"We can only really speak of a proper recovery when Europe's economy creates new jobs in hundreds of thousands every month on a sustained basis," Andor said, adding member countries need to take further action to support job creation.
Joblessness in the single currency area, which remains close to the record high of 12 percent seen last year, is expected to fall very slowly from current levels to 11.4 percent next year, the European Commission says.
The April reading was revised to 11.6 percent from the previously reported 11.7 percent.
Joblessness, differing widely across the euro zone, has been stuck at almost 19 million people for the past few months and shows the impact of the worst financial crisis in a generation.
While twice bailed-out Greece and Spain struggle with unemployment at above 25 percent, the bloc's growth engine Germany has an unemployment level of 5.1 percent. Austria, with 4.7 percent, has the lowest unemployment in the euro zone.
Italy, which took over the European Union's rotating six-month presidency on Tuesday, saw unemployment inching up to 12.6 percent in May from 12.5 percent in April.
Portugal, which exited its international bailout in May without more financial aid, saw unemployment going down to 14.3 percent in May, compared with 16.9 percent in May last year.
The 9.5 trillion euro economy rose for the fourth consecutive quarter at the beginning of the year, but the growth pace in the first quarter was weaker than expected as the economy struggles to shift its rebound into a higher gear.
Youth unemployment in the single currency area is especially worrying in number of countries, with one in every two Spaniards younger than 25 without a job.
Overall in the euro zone, youth joblessness stands at 23.3 percent in May.
"While euro zone unemployment has eased back gradually from its peak levels seen in 2013, the euro zone jobs problem is far from over as unemployment remains damagingly high and it seems unlikely to come down substantially for some time to come," said Howard Archer, chief European analyst at IHS.
(Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by Robin Emmott and Alison Williams)
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