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Eurozone Recession Now Worst of the Euro Era

The eurozone recession has now extended to 18 months, the longest contraction since Europe adopted the single euro currency in 1999.

The European Union said Wednesday that the economic fortunes of the 17-nation eurozone fell two-tenths of a percent in the January-to-March period. It is the sixth straight quarter the currency bloc has recorded a recession -- surpassing the length of the eurozone's recession in the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, although that contraction was more severe.

One analyst, ING economist Peter Vanden Houte, said, "The eurozone remains the weakest link in the world economy."

Nine eurozone countries are now in recession, with the economy in France, the eurozone's second biggest economy, falling into recession in the first quarter of the year. The German economy, the currency bloc's biggest, grew by just a tenth of a percentage point in the first months of the year.

The eurozone has struggled to emerge from its governmental debt crisis, during which it has sent billions of dollars in bailouts to five countries to keep them from going bankrupt. Debt-ridden countries have imposed severe austerity measures to rein in deficit spending.

But with government cuts in spending and higher taxes, unemployment in the eurozone has spiraled to a record 19 million workers. Some European leaders are now attempting to change course to spur economic growth, but the eurozone's stagnant economy is expected to extend through much of the rest of 2013.