The average employment rate for the EU climbed 0.5 percent last year to 63.8 percent which is similar to the increase recorded in 2004 following the increase of skilled workers, the commission said on Monday.

The EU unemployment rate fell to 8.7 percent last year from 9.1 percent in 2004 in spite of a temporary deceleration in economic growth, the European Commission said in a released statement. Since 2001, the continent’s long-term unemployment trend fell 0.2 percent from the previous year.

According to the report, the skills profile of the EU-25 working age population has increased in recent years. Last year, the high skilled working class -those having completed tertiary education- comprised almost 20 percent of the working age population. The working class with education at a lower secondary level or below contributed to 33 percent.

In 2000, the figures were 17.6 percent and 36.2 percent respectively, reflecting ongoing improvements in the level of human capital in the EU, read the statement.

Other developments noted in the statement include the positive trends in the employment rate for older workers which rose 1.5 percentage points to 42.5 percent, and the rise in the share of part-time employment and fixed-term contracts.