Europe's economic recovery is gaining pace, with euro zone unemployment at its lowest level since December 2008 and inflation on the rise, according to latest official figures.

The EU's official statistics agency said the jobless rate in the single currency area fell to 8.5% in February, down from 8.6% in January.

Separately, Eurostat said inflation in the euro zone jumped to 1.4% in March, up from February's 1.1%, bringing it closer to European Central Bank's desired 2%.

Even if inflation remains short of the ECB's target of near 2%, its policymakers are now debating whether to end the central bank's €2.55 trillion asset-purchase scheme.

Austria's ECB Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said last week that the ECB would probably decide this summer to slash its bond purchases if things develop as expected, warning that it must not fall "behind the curve".

Non-processed food prices rose by 0.9%, compared with a 0.9% decline in February.

Economists had expected an increase, reflecting a cold snap in March that drove up fresh fruit and vegetable prices.