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story.lead_photo.caption Waiters prepare outdoor seating for social distancing in June at a restaurant in Paris. The coronavirus pandemic sent the euro-area economy into the deepest recession on record in the second quarter. (AP/Christophe Ena)

ARIS -- The economy of the 19-country eurozone shrank by 12.1% in the April-June period from the quarter before -- the largest drop on record -- as coronavirus lockdowns shut businesses and hampered consumer spending.

Economists say the worst of the downturn is past as many restrictions have eased but that the recovery will be drawn out and vulnerable to renewed virus outbreaks.

Spain, which along with Italy was among the first to get hit hard by the spread of the virus, suffered the region's worst drop at 18.5%. France, Italy and Portugal also endured steep declines, but no country escaped the impact of the pandemic.

For the currency union as a whole it was the biggest decline since the records started in 1995. The broader 27-country European Union, not all of whose members use the euro, saw output sag 11.9%.

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The decline in Europe compares with a 9.5% quarter-on-quarter drop -- annualized to 32.9% a rate -- in the United States, which unlike Europe has not yet been able to get its contagion numbers firmly down and whose economic recovery is in doubt.

European governments are countering the recession with extensive stimulus measures. EU leaders have agreed on an $885 billion recovery fund backed by common borrowing to support the economy from 2021.

National governments have stepped in with loans to keep businesses afloat and wage support programs that pay workers' salaries while they are furloughed. The European Central Bank is pumping $1.7 trillion in newly printed money into the economy, a step that helps keep borrowing costs low.

Those support measures have helped keep unemployment from soaring. The rate rose to 7.8% in June from 7.7% in May. But many job losses will wind up being permanent despite the stimulus. Major companies such as Lufthansa, Daimler and Airbus have said they will cut thousands of jobs.

Economists say the downturn was concentrated in the months of April and May when lockdowns were most severe. Many restrictive measures have been eased, and business confidence in Germany, the biggest eurozone economy, has ticked up for three straight months.

Information for this article was contributed by Barry Hatton and Fran D'Emilio of The Associated Press.


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