BRUSSELS, March 14 (Reuters) - Euro zone employment rose for the first time in nearly three years in the last quarter of 2013 adding to signs of the bloc's gradual economic recovery, with clear improvement also in the most troubled southern region.
Employment in the euro zone inched up 0.1 percent quarter-quarter in the last three months of 2013 after staying flat in the previous two quarters.
It was still 0.5 percent lower year-on-year, but the pace of contraction slowed further from -0.8 percent in the third quarter of 2013 and -1.1 in the second.
It was the first rise in employment in the euro zone since the second quarter of 2011, the EU's statistics office Eurostat said on Friday.
Spain, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe of around 26 percent, saw employment rise 0.6 percent on the quarter.
Greece, where unemployment is around 28 percent of the workforce, also saw a 0.2 percent rise in the number of people with jobs in the last quarter of 2013.
Portugal, which is to exit its international bailout in mid-year, showed a 0.7 percent rise in the number of employed quarter-on-quarter and even a 0.5 percent year-on-year increase.