BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The European Union's economy is falling further behind the U.S. economy, largely because of a failure to embrace new technologies, said a EU report released Thursday.

As a result, ``standards of living in the EU have fallen persistently behind those of the United States in recent years,'' said the report, issued by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

The report attributed the widening gap to less innovation and ``slower introduction of information and communications technologies.''

Although the report showed increased economic growth and falling unemployment in the 15-nation EU through the late 1990s, gross domestic product per head fell to below two-thirds the U.S. level.

The gap is wider than any time since the late 1960s, the EU said.

Business investment in the information and communications technology sectors in 1999 reached 2.4 percent of GDP in the EU, compared to 4.5 percent in the United States, the report found.

That unwillingness to invest in technology may have wiped up to half a percentage point off annual economic growth in the EU, it added.

However, the report said EU member states Britain and Sweden had overtaken U.S. high-tech investment levels, while Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands were fast catching up.