Spanish unemployment swings upwards

2nd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Unemployment queues in Spain swelled to nearly four million people in August as summer jobs came to end, reversing four months of declines, the government said Thursday.

The number of people registered as unemployed grew by 61,083 people, or 1.56 percent, from the previous month to 3.97 million, the labour ministry said in a statement.

On an annual basis, the figure was up 9.3 percent, or 340,581.

The rise follows four months of falling unemployment.

The European statistics office Eurostat said Tuesday that Spain's unemployment rate in July was 20.3 percent, the highest among the 16 nations that use the euro single currency and more than double the 10 percent average for the region.

The government sought to downplay the latest figures, noting that joblessness traditionally rises in August, as seasonal contracts and summer sales end and big businesses are closed for the holidays.

"Normally in Spain from the end of the summer, the unemployment figures increase," Finance Minister Elena Salgado told Cadena Ser radio.

She said the figures were "much better" than August last year, when there were 84,985 additional unemployed.

"In view of the seasonal context, the figure is less bad," she said.

Agriculture was the only sector in which unemployment declined, dropping 1.09 percent.

The services sector, where unemployment eased in July as employers hired more workers for the summer season, joblessness rose 1.7 percent in August.

August "is traditionally a month in which there is a rebound in unemployment, as a result of the end of seasonal contracts," the secretary general for employment, Maravillas Rojo, said in a statement.

"Today's figures show that the labour market is beginning to stabilise and so, in the coming months, we can begin to have better news on unemployment."

The Spanish economy, Europe's fifth-largest, slumped into recession in 2008 owing to the collapse of a property boom which had long fuelled growth.

It recovered this year with tepid growth of just 0.1 percent in the first quarter and 0.2 percent in the second.

© 2010 AFP

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