Rise in Spanish jobless total slows in March: ministry

2nd April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Unemployment in the month of March may have slowed down, but number of unemployed workers rose to record high of 3.6 million, says labour ministry.

MADRID – The number of unemployed in Spain registered the weakest gain in six months in March compared to February, but the overall jobless total rose to 3.6 million, the highest since 1996, the labour ministry said Thursday.

By the end of March there were 3,605,402 unemployed workers in Spain, up 3.5 percent or 123,543 from the previous month and the highest number since 1996 when the current method of calculation was introduced, the ministry said in a statement.

It was the 12th straight monthly increase and the sixth consecutive monthly rise of more than 100,000 registered unemployed in Spain, a recession-strapped nation of around 46 million.

"While the rise in the month of March is the lowest of the previous six months, it still represents a high number of people who have lost their jobs and are going through difficult times," said employment secretary Maravillas Rojo in the statement.

Formerly one of the eurozone's chief engines of economic growth and job creation, Spain suffered an abrupt change of fortunes when the outbreak of the global financial crisis hastened a correction that was already underway in its once-buoyant property sector.

The Spanish economy, the fifth-largest in Europe, entered into its first recession in 15 years at the end of 2008.

The government expects the economy will shrink by 1.6 percent this year after expanding 1.2 percent in 2008 but many economists are predicting a sharper contraction.

Bank of Spain governor Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez has said the country's unemployment rate is rising in the country at the fastest rate in the developed world and new economic reforms are needed if it wants to return to high rates of growth.

The figure for the number of registered unemployed is separate from the unemployment rate, which is released quarterly by national statistics agency INE and stood at 13.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

But according to European Union statistics agency Eurostat, Spain's unemployment rate rose to 15.5 percent in February, the highest level in the 27-nation bloc. The average for the entire EU was 7.9 percent.

Spain's unemployment rate has risen each quarter since it dipped to 7.95 percent in the second quarter of 2007, its lowest level since 1978.

The government expects it will rise to 15.9 percent this year before gradually starting to fall, but the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, is more pessimistic.

It sees the jobless rate continuing to rise in Spain to 16.1 percent in 2010 and 18.7 percent the following year.

AFP / Expatica

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