Euro zone unemployment fell to a near-decade low in August, data showed today, with a sharp decline in the month in Italy.

The European statistics office Eurostat said the jobless rate in the 19 countries sharing the euro slipped to 8.1% in August from 8.2% in July. 

Economists had an average expected an unchanged reading. 

The jobless rate was the lowest level since the 8% of November 2008. It has been steadily declining since a peak of 12.1% in mid-2013.

The sharpest decline was in Italy, where the unemployment rate was 9.7% of the workforce in August, down from 10.2% in July.

The lowest rate was 3.4% in Germany, unchanged from July. 

The rate in France increased to 9.3% in August from 9.2% in July.

Overall, 13.22 million people were without a job in the euro zone, a decline of 102,000 from July.

In the whole of the European Union, 16.66 million people were unemployed to give an unchanged jobless rate of 6.8%.