BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Unemployment in the European Union fell to a nine-year low of 8.4 percent in June, reflecting an upturn in Europe's economy.

The EU's statistics office, Eurostat, said Tuesday that June unemployment fell 0.1 percentage points from 8.5 percent in May.

The last time the jobless rate across the 15-nation bloc was as low was August 1991, said Andre Persenaire, of the Luxembourg-based Eurostat.

Economic stagnation caused EU unemployment to peak at more than 11 percent in 1994, then linger stubbornly in double figures until 1998.

This year, the jobless rate has been dropping rapidly at a rate of 0.1 percentage points a month, fueled by economic growth that the EU predicts will come in at a healthy 3.4 percent this year.

The International Monetary Fund last month reported that in the EU ``conditions for a sustained recovery have not been as auspicious in a long time.''

However, European unemployment remains more than double the 4 percent posted in the United States and well above Japan's 4.7 percent. Eurostat estimates 14.4 million people are out of work across the bloc.

Ireland was the EU nation with the largest fall in unemployment in the 12 months up to June, moving from 5.7 percent to 4.5 percent. Dutch unemployment fell to 2.8 percent from 3.4 percent over the same period and French joblessness dropped to 9.6 percent from 11.4 percent.

Spain continued to register the EU's highest unemployment rate at 14.1 percent, while Luxembourg had the lowest rate at 2.2 percent.

In Germany, the EU's largest economy, the jobless rate edged down slightly to 8.4 percent in June from 8.8 percent in June 1999.