BRUSSELS (AP) — The recession across the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro extended into its sixth quarter — longer than the calamitous one that hit the euro area during the financial crisis of 2008-9.
Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said Wednesday that nine of the 17 eurozone countries are in recession, with France a notable addition to the list. Overall, the eurozone economy contracted 0.2 percent in the January-March period from the previous quarter.
Though that's an improvement on the previous quarter's 0.6 percent decline, it's another unwelcome landmark for the single currency bloc. This recession, though not as deep as the one in 2008, is the longest in the history of the euro, which was launched in 1999. A recession is officially defined as two straight quarters of negative growth.
There was also bad news for the wider 27-country EU, which is also now officially in recession. In the first three months of 2013, its economic output shrank 0.1 percent, following a 0.5 percent decline in the previous quarter.
The eurozone has been shrinking since the fourth quarter of 2011. Initially it was just the countries at the forefront of its debt crisis, such as Greece and Portugal that were contracting.
But the malaise is now afflicting the so-called core. Figures earlier Wednesday showed Germany, Europe's biggest economy, grew by a less-than-anticipated quarterly rate of 0.1 percent, largely because of a severe winter. However, Germany's paltry growth still allowed it to avoid a recession following the previous quarter's 0.7 percent fall.
France, Europe's second-largest economy, has not avoided that fate. Figures earlier showed that it contracted by a quarterly rate of 0.2 percent for the second quarter running.