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Euro zone jobless rate steady at 12.0 percent

Manuel Sastre, 59, smokes a cigarette as he asks for money in central Madrid July 31, 2012. REUTERS/Susana Vera
Manuel Sastre, 59, smokes a cigarette as he asks for money in central Madrid July 31, 2012. REUTERS/Susana Vera

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The euro zone jobless rate was stable at 12.0 percent in February, the European Union statistics office Eurostat said on Tuesday, which could add pressure for an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank.

The February number was in line with expectations of economists polled by Reuters, and remained unchanged from January's figure, which Eurostat revised up to 12.0 percent.

Data from the bloc of 17 countries using the euro showed another 33,000 people out of work in February, almost 1.8 million more than in the same time last year.

Unemployment of under 25s rose to 23.9 percent in the euro zone, with rates in Greece and Spain remaining over 50 percent.

After three years of austerity policies to tackle the economic crisis in the European Union, some politicians have warned that cost-cutting measures which raise unemployment could result in the rise of populist governments.

"Prolonging austerity today risks not achieving a reduction in deficits but the certainty of making governments unpopular so that populists will swallow them whole when the time comes," French President Francois Hollande said last week.

The dire social impact of Europe's economic situation may give an impetus for the ECB to cut interest rates when central bank governors meet on Thursday.

For further details of Eurostat data click on: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/portal/page/portal/eurostat/home/

(Reporting By Ethan Bilby; editing by Jan Strupczewski)

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