BRUSSELS - Unemployment in the 19 countries sharing the euro currency was unchanged in May, European statistics office Eurostat said on Monday, defying economists’ expectations of a worsening job market.

Euro zone unemployment was stable at 8.4 percent in May, with the number of job seekers falling slightly compared to April to 13.66 million. Economists polled by Reuters had on average expected an increase to 8.5 percent.

On a country-by-country basis, the number of job seekers declined most in Spain and Italy, while Portugal saw a small increase in unemployment. Rates in the bloc’s largest economies France and Germany were stable in May.

While unemployment is a backward looking indicator, the figure is a rare positive surprise in the second quarter, in which euro zone growth has shown some signs of slowing down.

Most recently, economic sentiment data showed both managers and consumers were more gloomy about the economic outlook in June.

The European Central Bank expects the euro zone economy to grow by 2.1 percent in 2018, according to its latest forecast.