Signs of stability

However a drop in the number of jobless people in Germany could signal that the labour market may be stabilising.

"Despite the uptick in the euro area unemployment rate, we view these latest data as being relatively positive," James Ashley, an economist at Barclays Capital, told the Reuters news agency.
 
"The level of unemployment increased by a mere 25,000 month-on-month in April as increases in France, Italy, and Spain were largely counterbalanced by a decline in Germany."

"Although there is widespread divergence in labour market dynamics within the euro area, we continue to expect the overall figures to stabilise over the next few months," he said.

The latest German data showed it also fell the 11th month running in May, by a seasonally adjusted 45,000 month-on-month, far more than expected as labour reforms paid dividends and a weaker euro boosted exports.

But some analysts have said a turnaround in the labour market was still some way off, forecasting unemployment would remain a drag on the economy.