Spanish unemployment slows sharply in April

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An increase of nearly 40,000 unemployed in April as compared to more than 120,000 unemployed in March is a sign that the Spanish government’s stimulus plan is producing results.

MADRID – The number of unemployed people in Spain rose in April by nearly 40,000 compared to more than 120,000 in March, official data showed Tuesday, in a sign that a government spending plan is producing results.

The number of jobless rose by 39,478, or 1.06 percent last month over March to 3,644,880 people, compared to a rise of 123,543 in March, the lowest monthly increase in the last nine months, the labour ministry said in a statement.

The number of unemployed was up 56 percent on the year.

It was the 13th straight monthly increase in Spain, which has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union and entered its first recession in 15 years in 2008 as the outbreak of the global financial crisis hastened a correction that was already underway in its once-buoyant property sector.

"The complexity of the situation and the process of adjustment which the Spanish economy continues to face does not allow us for the moment to talk about a turnaround in the job market," the secretary general for employment, Maravillas Rojo, said in the statement.

Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero responded to the economic slowdown late last year with a EUR-10-billion infrastructure spending plan that aims to create over 300,000 jobs, mainly through 31,000 public works projects across the country.

Many economists, however, caution that many of the jobs which will be created will be short-term but Zapatero argues they are crucial to restoring hope and confidence in the economy.

Consumer confidence in Spain rose for the second consecutive month in April, with the index rising to 61.9 – its highest level in a year – from 53.7 in March, state financing body Instituto de Credito Oficial (ICO) said Tuesday.

The indicator looks at consumer confidence in the current economic situation and future economy in terms of the country, the home and employment.

The index measuring the perception of the current economic situation climbed to 31.7 in April from 28.2 in March, and confidence in expectations for the next six months jumped to 92.2 from 79.3.

"The measures we have put in place have begun to bear fruit," Finance and Economy Minister Elena Salgado Secretary told reporters.

On Monday the European Commission forecast a prolonged slump in Spain's economic output and spiralling unemployment following the collapse of the country's construction boom.

It predicted in its updated forecasts for the European economy that Spain's gross domestic product (GDP) will fall by 3.2 percent this year and by 1.0 percent in 2010.

Brussels has previously forecast a contraction of 2.0 percent in 2009 and of 0.2 percent in 2010.

The commission forecast Spanish unemployment will rise to 17.3 percent in 2009 and to 20.5 percent in 2010.

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 17.4 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Spain's unemployment rate is the highest in the 27-nation European Union and is double that of the United States.

AFP / Expatica

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