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EU to change how it calculates deficit figures, possibly easing pressure for austerity

European Union finance officials have reached a preliminary agreement to change the way the bloc determines some deficit figures, which might lessen the pressure for austerity measures in crisis-hit economies.

An EU official said Thursday the change to the calculation of the structural deficit would have "very significant" positive consequences for Spain because of its labor market structure, and somewhat less so for Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

Spain is struggling to overcome record unemployment of about 26 percent. The change could allow the government a slightly looser fiscal stance, supporting growth.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the working-level agreement on the "superior methodology" still needs approval by a meeting of representatives from the bloc's 28 member states next week.