Unemployment in the euro area fell back to sub-10 percent levels in January, official data showed on Tuesday.

Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the 17-member eurozone was 9.9 percent in January, compared with 10 percent in December last year, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, said in a release.

Unemployment in the broader 27-member European Union was 9.5 percent in the last month compared with 9.6 percent in the previous month.

The drop in the euro-zone unemployment rate from 10% to 9.9% in January was good news, particularly when taken alongside the timelier data showing a further drop in Germany’s unemployment rate from 7.4% to 7.3% in February, Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics, said in a note.

Eurostat data showed that as many as 23.048 million men and women in the EU27, of whom 15.775 million were in the euro area, were unemployed last month.

Compared with December 2010, the number of persons unemployed fell by 43,000 in the EU27 and by 72,000 in the euro area.

Among the member States, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in the Netherlands and Austria (both 4.3 percent) and Luxembourg (4.7 percent), and the highest was recorded in Spain (20.4 percent).

The huge and growing divergences between the core and peripheral economies are abundantly clear in the massive differences in unemployment rates across the region – Spain’s rate held steady at 20.4%, Loynes said.
In January 2011, unemployment rate was 9 percent in the United States.