Spanish jobless up 1.6% in February
The number of people unemployed in Spain, which has the highest jobless rate in the industrialised world, rose further in February, the labour ministry said Wednesday.
There were nearly 4.3 million people registered as unemployed last month, up by 68,260 people or 1.6 percent from January, the ministry said.
Compared with the total 12 months ago, the figure was up 4.0 percent or 168,638.
"It is a bad number," secretary of state for employment, Mari Luz Rodriguez, said, adding that the rise in unemployment in February was nonetheless smaller than during the same month in 2010 and 2009.
The government does not provide a jobless rate but the national statistics institute, which uses a different calculation method from the labour ministry, said in January that the rate came to 20.33 percent at the end of 2010.
That is the highest level in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and it easily exceeds the government target of 19.4 percent for the year.
In October, the government raised its forecast for the jobless rate for 2011 to 19.3 percent, from a previous estimate of 18.9 percent, due to the effects of government spending cuts aimed at reining in a massive public deficit and reassuring nervous markets that Spain will not need an Irish-style bailout.
It predicts the jobless rate will dip to 17.5 percent in 2012 and 16.2 percent in 2013.
The Spanish economy, the European Union's fifth biggest, slumped into recession during the second half of 2008 as the global financial meltdown compounded the collapse of a labour-intensive construction boom.
It shrank 0.1 percent in 2010 and the government predicts the economy will expand by 1.3 percent this year. The International Monetary Fund sees growth of just 0.6 percent.
Last year, the government introduced a hotly contested labour market reforms which cut the country's high cost of firing workers and gave companies more flexibility to reduce working hours and staff levels in economic downturns -- changes that it argued would boost job creation.
© 2011 AFP