Unemployment in the euro zone eased, with the rate edging down to 11.8% in March, according to official data today, with small signs of improvement in Greece's high jobless rate. 

But the ravages of economic crisis on job prospects for young people were also highlighted, particularly in Greece and Spain. 

About 18.91 million people remained unemployed in the 18-member euro zone in March, down 22,000 from the February level and 316,000 from the level a year earlier, the Eurostat statistics agency said. 

Euro zone economies are struggling at different speeds into growth and away from the crisis downturn.

But the effect on unemployment, at near record high levels in some countries, is lagging behind and is likely to continue doing so, economists have warned. 

The euro zone country faring the worst was Greece, with an unemployment rate of 26.7% of the workforce, although the recession-hit economy is clawing its way back from the 27.2% rate of December, the month with the latest data available. 

Austria has the lowest unemployment figure in the euro zone, with joblessness at 4.9%, followed by Germany's 5.1%. 

The rate in bailed-out euro zone members Ireland and Portugal remained stable, with Ireland's March unemployment rate at 11.8%, down slightly from the previous month's 11.9%, while Portugal was unchanged at 15.2%. 

Across the wider 28-member European Union, unemployment came in at 10.5% in March - almost no change from the previous month but comparing favourably to the 10.9% of March 2013. 

Overall, the number of jobless across the EU dropped by 66,000 since February, with 929,000 more people employed today than at the same time in 2013. 

But unemployment among young people as a result of the financial and then euro zone debt crises is a particular worry for governments which have spoken of a "lost generation". 

Eurostat showed that the March youth unemployment rate in the single currency bloc was at 23.7%, compared to the 24% levels of March 2013. In March, there were more than 3.4 million unemployed people aged under 25 in the eur ozone. 

The countries with the highest youth unemployment levels were Greece (56.8%) and Spain (53.9%), with Germany and Austria faring the best, at 7.8% and 9.5% respectively.