Spain’s unemployment rate has climbed to nearly 26 per cent in the first quarter of 2014 as millions searched in vain for a job in a sluggish recovery from recession.
Despite emerging gingerly from a two-year downturn in mid-2013, official figures on Tuesday showed Spain still failing to significantly dent one of the highest jobless rates in the industrialised world.
The unemployment rate climbed to 25.93 per cent in the first three months of 2014, up from 25.73 per cent in the previous quarter, the National Statistics Institute said.
Many people apparently despaired at the lack of jobs fled the country or stopped looking for work, slashing the workforce by 187,000 people.
In the face of that exodus, the unemployment queue shrank fractionally, by 2,300 people, to 5.93 million.
“The number of unemployed people is coming down, not because they have found a job but because they have stopped looking,” said Sara de la Rica, economics researcher at the Foundation for Applied Economics Studies, FEDEA.
Unemployment remains a daunting challenge for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government, which has made job creation a priority.
The implosion of a decade-long property bubble in 2008 flooded the country in debt, tipped the economy into a double-dip recession and wiped out millions of jobs.
By the first quarter of 2013, the unemployment rate had soared to an unprecedented 26.94 per cent, according to latest official figures.
Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro said the latest jobs report was encouraging.
“We must not tire of saying that, yes, we are coming out of the crisis,” he said, hailing the fall in jobless numbers.
Despite signs of a gathering economic recovery, no one is predicting a return anytime soon to the pre-crisis days in 2007 when Spain enjoyed a jobless rate of less than eight per cent.