Spain's unemployment jumps to record 27.2% in first three months of 2013

Friday 26 April 2013 12.30
6.2 million people now out of work in Spain
6.2 million people now out of work in Spain

With over 6 million unemployed for the first time ever, Spain's jobless rate shot up to a record 27.2% in the first quarter of 2013, the National Statistics Institute said today.

The agency said the number of people unemployed rose by 237,400 people in the first three months of the year, a 1.1% increase from the previous quarter.

The total out of work stood at 6.2 million people, the first time the number has breached the 6-million mark.

Unsurprisingly, the details of the report make for grim reading. The number of people considered long-term unemployed - out of a job for over a year - increased to 3.5 million while the unemployment rate for those aged under-25 was a staggering 57%.

The government body also said its survey found the number of households without anyone working had risen by 72,400, to 1.91 million.

Labour Ministry employment secretary Engracia Hidalgo described the figures as "dramatic", but said the government was working non-stop to try to make Spain a job creator once again.

Spain has been in recession for much of the past four years as it struggles to deal with the collapse of its once-booming property sector in 2008. In the previous decade its economy was thriving, generating millions of jobs.

In just over a year in office, the conservative government has launched a series of financial and labour reforms and pursued a raft of spending cuts and tax increases that have managed to reduce a swollen deficit.

Even so, the country had the highest budget deficit among the 17 European Union countries that use the euro in 2012.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has acknowledged that 2013 will be a bad year but insists that it would have been worse without the reforms.

The International Monetary Fund indicated last week that Spain's economy will contract by 1.6% this year.

The government is predicting that Spain will return to growth, which should help the labour market. Mr Rajoy has promised reforms to be presented tomorrow that will "make the economy more flexible, more competitive and will turn those predictions around".

Opposition parties said the unemployment figures highlight how Mr Rajoy's austerity policies are damaging the economy.

But the EU's top economic official, Commissioner Olli Rehn, said that "Spain should maintain the reform momentum by including comprehensive and concrete policy measures" in its programmes.

He said that "despite significant progress in 2012, there are still excessive macroeconomic imbalances" with high domestic and external debt continuing to pose risks for growth and financial stability.