The European Central Bank on Thursday kept its key interest rate on hold amid a modest recovery in manufacturing that could help end the euro zone's longest recession on record.

The ECB left the rate at 0.5 percent as the latest euro zone manufacturing data indicated that the sector's skid may have stopped or at least slowed. Both Germany and Italy reported modest upturns in their manufacturing sectors in July, according to Markit's PMI reports.

Unemployment numbers for the euro zone released on Wednesday showed the first decline in joblessness in two and a half years.