PARIS  The unemployment rate across rich countries eased slightly to 8.0 percent in March, the OECD said on Wednesday but this meant that 48.3 million people were officially without work in the downdraught of the financial and eurozone debt crises. The figures and trends for the 34-nation OECD area varied widely.

The eurozone rate rose to a record 12.1 percent, the rate in the United States eased slightly to 7.6 percent, and went down further to 7.5 percent in April, and in Japan to 4.1 percent in March.

Young people are the worse hit. The youth rate was steady at 16.5 percent in March, more than twice as high as the overall average, 3.5 points above the pre-crisis level and only 0.8 points below the peak in September 2009.

The rate of unemployment for men across the 34 countries edged down by 0.1 points to 7.9 percent and this was down a whole percentage point from the peak in October 2009.

But the rate for women, at 8.1 percent, was only 0.1 points down from the peak of 8.2 percent in December 2012.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said that the total of people registered as unemployed in March was 0.4-percent fewer than the figure for February.

But the total showed a leap of 13.6 million people since July 2008 just before the financial crisis destabilised economies across the world.

The data was published against a background of gloomy growth figures on Wednesday for 17 eurozone countries.

The OECD data showed that for all 27 countries in the European Union, the unemployment rate was flat at 10.9 percent from February to March.

However, regarding the trend in the United States, the OECD said that the extra data for April "show that the unemployment rate continued to fall."

The trend of unemployment, and more especially of job creation, in the United States is regarded as a critical indicator of the outlook for the US economy which is still a driving force for economic activity across the world.

The OECD stressed that the small decline for its members overall in the latest data "masks diverging patterns across countries."

In Germany, the rate was steady at 5.4 percent, but in France it edged up to 11.0 percent from 10.9 percent, twice the rate in Germany which is both a benchmark and bone of contention within France as it struggles over how to restructure its economy.

The Italian rate was steady at 11.5 percent.

The last available figure for Britain, a member of the EU but not of the eurozone, was 7.8 percent in January.

-- Highlighted figures --

The OECD highlighted the following figures:

The overall OECD rate fell from 8.1 percent in February to 8.0 percent in March. The eurozone rate rose by 0.1 points to 12.1 percent. The Canadian rate rose by 0.2 points to 7.2 percent in March, and data for April showed it flat at that level.

The US rate fell by 0.1 point to 7.6 percent in March, the rate in Japan by 0.2 points to 4.1 percent and in South Korea by 0.3 points to 3.2 percent.

The list of data also showed that in Australia the rate rose to 5.6 percent in March from 5.4 percent in February

In emerging central Europe, the rate in Poland rose slightly to 10.7 percent from 10.6 percent.

In eurozone countries under particular strain because of debt, the last available rate for Greece was 27.2 percent in January. The rate in Spain was 26.7 percent in March, up from 26.5 percent in February, and in Portugal it was steady at 17.5 percent.

For Ireland, the rate was unchanged at 14.1 percent.