By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — European officials on Monday forecast stronger economic growth for the region, a major market for exports from the United States.
The economy of the 28-nation European Union will expand 1.6 percent this year after just 0.1 percent growth in 2013, according to the spring forecast by the region’s executive body. Growth will increase to 2 percent next year, the European Commission said.
“The recovery has now taken hold,” said Siim Kallas, the commission’s vice president.
“Deficits have declined, investment is rebounding and, importantly, the employment situation has started improving,” he said.
The region’s unemployment rate remains high at 10.5 percent as of March, according to Eurostat. the EU’s statistical agency. But that was down from 10.9 percent a year earlier.
The spring forecast projects the rate to remain stable at 10.5 percent this year and then fall to 10.1 percent in 2015.
In contrast, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent in April, its lowest level in more than 5 years.
In addition, the European Commission forecasts the U.S. economy to expand 2.8 percent this year and 3.2 percent in 2014.
As the numbers indicate, the European Union has had much more difficulty recovering from the Great Recession.
Debt crises and uneven attempts at austerity have hobbled the region’s economy, which fell back into recession in 2012-13. Monday’s report said the biggest risk to growth was a loss of confidence because of stalled economic reforms.
Europe’s economic troubles have hurt the U.S. economy because the double-dip recession reduced demand for American exports. A pickup in growth in the EU should lead to an increase in U.S. exports.