Eurozone Shows Signs Of Economic Improvement

Economic indicators suggest the recession is over in the eurozone. It will, however, take time and stronger growth to reverse the high unemployment in many countries. Politicians are hailing the figures as an end to the grim years.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with growth in the eurozone.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It looks like Europe's long recession is finally over. Statistics out this morning shows signs of growth across the eurozone after a year and a half of declining numbers.

GREENE: It will take time and stronger growth to reverse the high unemployment of many countries but politicians are hailing the figures as an end to the dark years.

NPR's Eleanor Beardsley sent this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The increase is slight. But after six straight quarters of a debilitating recession - the longest to afflict the single-currency bloc since its creation in 1999, there is palpable relief. French finance minister Pierre Moscovici announced that France was officially out of recession and said the numbers pointed to an upcoming full economic recovery.

The return to growth is led by Germany, the eurozone's strongest economy and exporter. German gross domestic product rose zero point seven percent in the second quarter.

But that was expected, says Sylvain Broyer, economist at Natixis. The surprise is France with a half percent rise in GDP.

SYLVAIN BROYER: The real good news is the increase in French consumer spending. It's important because the French economy is the second largest economy in the eurozone, and the increase in French consumption benefits to its neighbors.

BEARDSLEY: The good news couldn't have come soon enough for French President Francois Hollande, who has been dogged by rising unemployment, despite his promise to create jobs.

PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE: (French spoken)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: On a pr tour of the country, Hollande was accosted in front of the TV cameras by an angry woman who said shed been looking for a job for a year. You're not doing anything, she accused.

An upswing in Europe, the world's largest trading bloc, is good news for the United States, because EU consumers will now spend more on U.S. exports. The eurozone's recession was a byproduct of the debt crisis that engulfed the currency union in 2010.

But despite the glimmer of good news, unemployment remains staggeringly high in some countries - more than 26 percent in Greece and Spain, with youth unemployment around 60 percent.

Economists say it will take several quarters of at least one percent growth to begin to create jobs.

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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