Spanish unemployment rate tops 20 percent: data

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Spain's unemployment rate rose to 20.05 percent in the first quarter, from 18.83 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, the national statistics office INE said Friday.

The number of jobless soared 286,200 in the three months to March over the previous quarter to reach 4,612,700 people, it said in a statement.

The last time the unemployment rate topped 20 percent in Spain was in the fourth quarter of 1997 when it hit 20.11 percent.

The first quarter unemployment figure confirms the number which had been posted in error by INE on its website at the beginning of the week.

Spain's jobless rate has soared since the global credit crisis hastened the collapse of its labour-intensive construction industry at the end of 2008.

The country has the highest unemployment rate in the 16-nation eurozone and accounts for half the region's job losses over the last two years, according to the European Union's statistics office Eurostat.

© 2010 AFP

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