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Italy March jobless rate edges down to 7.8%, lowest since April 2020

FILE PHOTO: Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome

ROME, May 3 (Reuters) - Italy's unemployment rate edged down to 7.8% in March from 7.9% in February, data showed on Wednesday, as some 22,000 jobs were created in the month.

The March jobess rate was below the median forecast of 8.0% in a Reuters survey of 11 analysts and was the lowest reading since April 2020, when Italians stopped looking for work during a COVID-19 lockdown.

The February unemployment rate was revised down from a previously reported 8.0%.

In the first quarter of the year, the number of people in work in the euro zone's third largest economy was up by 90,000 or 0.4%, compared with the last three months of 2022, ISTAT said.

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Compared with March 2022, employment was up in March this year by 297,000, or 1.3%, it said.

In March the youth unemployment rate, measuring job-seekers between 15 and 24 years old, fell marginally to 22.3% from 22.4% the month before.

Italy's overall employment rate, one of the lowest in the euro zone, edged up in March to 60.9% from 60.8% in February.

The March rate was the highest for more than 19 years.

The Italian economy grew by a stronger-than-expected 0.5% in the first quarter from the previous three months, data showed on Friday, recovering after a 0.1% fall in gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of last year.

Last month Rome raised its forecast for 2023 full-year GDP growth to 1.0% from 0.6% but cut next year’s forecast to 1.5% from a previous 1.9%.

ISTAT gave the following jobs data:

MARCH FEB JAN

JOBLESS RATE 7.8 7.9r 8.0

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT RATE (15-24) 22.3 22.4 22.8

EMPLOYMENT RATE (15-64) 60.9 60.8 60.8

r=revised

((Reporting by Gavin Jones)((gavin.jones@reuters.com))