Euro sign
A euro currency sign in front of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Reuters

The eurozone jobless rate rose to a new record high in March with big economies in the region, Germany and Italy, reporting little improvement on the employment front.

The European Union's statistics office, Eurostat, said that the euro area's unemployment rate rose to a record high at 12.1% in March from 12% in February, adding to hopes of another rate cut by the European Central Bank to spur economic growth.

Over the month, the number of unemployed persons increased by 62,000, according to Eurostat.

In Germany, the number of people without work increased by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 2.94 million in April, according to the Federal Labour Agency. Economists expected the number to increase by 2,000. In March, the number of unemployed was 13,000.

However, the adjusted jobless rate in Germany remained the same at 6.9% in line with analysts' estimates.

Meanwhile, Italy's March unemployment rate remained near a 20-year high at 11.5% as companies stalled hiring amid the political impasse and the economic recession.

The Rome-based national statistics office Istat revised February's jobless rate down to 11.5% from 11.7%. Analysts estimated a jobless rate of 11.7% in March.

Eurostat noted that unemployment rates were the highest in Greece at 27.2%, Spain at 26.7% and Portugal at 17.5%.

On 29 April, the European Commission said that economic sentiment in the 17-member eurozone declined for the second straight month in April.

The ECB had earlier projected that the 17-nation economy will shrink 0.5% in 2013 before expanding 1% in 2014.

Given the worsening conditions in the European economy, the ECB is expected to cut the euro zone's main interest rate at its meeting on 2 May. Policy makers also signalled that they were considering cutting interest rates to fresh lows in an effort to stimulate growth.

Separate polls from Dow Jones Newswires, Bloomberg and Reuters showed that economists expect on average a 25-basis point cut in interest rates to 0.5%.

Eurostat separately reported that the area's annual inflation declined to 1.2% in April from 1.7% in March.