Europe

Unemployment drops, inflation jumps as Europe recovers

  • FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2010 file picture steam rises from the chimneys in the industrial area in Duisburg , Germany. Europe's statistic agency Eurostat releases growth, inflation and unemployment figures for the 19 countries that use the euro currency on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

    FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2010 file picture steam rises from the chimneys in the industrial area in Duisburg , Germany. Europe's statistic agency Eurostat releases growth, inflation and unemployment figures for the 19 countries that use the euro currency on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2013 file photo trucks loaded with containers leave the harbor in Duisburg, Germany. Europe's statistic agency Eurostat releases growth, inflation and unemployment figures for the 19 countries that use the euro currency on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)

    FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2013 file photo trucks loaded with containers leave the harbor in Duisburg, Germany. Europe's statistic agency Eurostat releases growth, inflation and unemployment figures for the 19 countries that use the euro currency on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2016 file photo shipping containers are stacked on a ship in the port in Hamburg, Germany. Europe's statistic agency Eurostat releases growth, inflation and unemployment figures for the 19 countries that use the euro currency on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)

    FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2016 file photo shipping containers are stacked on a ship in the port in Hamburg, Germany. Europe's statistic agency Eurostat releases growth, inflation and unemployment figures for the 19 countries that use the euro currency on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)  (The Associated Press)

Official figures show Europe's recovery is gathering speed, with inflation picking up and unemployment at its lowest in nearly eight years.

The official figures Tuesday from Eurostat showed inflation rose sharply, a move that will likely encourage critics who think it's time for the European Central Bank to start withdrawing its stimulus programs. Inflation jumped to an annual 1.8 percent in January, from 1.1 percent the month before.

Growth inched up to 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 in the 19 countries that share the euro currency, from 0.4 percent the quarter before, while unemployment fell to 9.6 percent in December. That's the lowest unemployment rate since May 2009, before a financial implosion in Greece kicked off a eurozone-wide debt crisis whose effects are still being felt.