Spain warns jobless rate worsened in quarter

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Spain's unemployment rate, already the highest among industrialised countries, worsened during the first quarter, Labour Minister Valeriano Gomez said on Thursday.

The rate stood at 20.33 percent in the final quarter of 2010, the highest level in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the national statistics agency will publish the first quarter figure on Friday.

"The jobless figures which we give each month indicates that the number of people out of work rose during the first quarter," Gomez said during an interview with public television TVE.

"The employment situation will not go well this quarter. It never goes well during the first quarter so as a consequence we must expect a bad employment figure."

Spain's booming construction industry drew millions of unskilled immigrant workers and generated high levels of economic growth in the decade to 2008.

But the collapse of the property bubble, compounded by the global financial crisis, left many people out of work, especially immigrants and youths.

The rise in the number of people out of work and claiming benefit adds to the squeeze on public sector finances just as the government is trying to stamp out market fears that Spain may be forced to seek a rescue package from the EU and and the IMF as Greece, Ireland and Portugal have done.

Earlier this month the government raised its forecast for the unemployment rate in 2011 to 19.8 percent from 19.3 percent.

It predicts the rate will ease to 18.5 percent in 2012, 17.3 percent in 2013 and 16 percent in 2014.

© 2011 AFP

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