Sat, Mar 03, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Spain’s jobless numbers hit record high last month

AFP, Madrid

Spain’s jobless numbers shot to a new record high last month, government figures showed yesterday, as people struggled in vain to find work in the recession-bound economy.

The number of job seekers surged 2.44 percent from the previous month to 4.71 million people, Spain’s labor ministry said in a report, which is based on the official unemployment register.

“These unemployment figures justify the Spanish government’s approval of a complete and balanced labor reform in a very difficult period for the Spanish and European economy,” Spanish State Secretary for Labor Engracia Hidalgo said in a statement.

Under the labor market reform approved by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government on Feb. 11, maximum severance pay is slashed to 33 days’ salary for each year worked from 45 days, going back 24 years at most.

It also makes it easier for companies to opt out of sectorwide or countrywide union collective wage agreements.

The government has made the labor market reform, along with steep spending cuts and a plan to clean up the country’s banks, a cornerstone of its efforts to revive the economy.

The Spanish economy, the eurozone’s fourth largest, shrank 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year and the government has warned that the drop will likely be steeper in the first quarter of this year.

The Bank of Spain has forecast the economy will shrink by 1.5 percent this year.

The economy is still reeling from the 2008 housing bubble collapse, which destroyed millions of property-related jobs. However, the latest figures showed that agricultural workers were the hardest hit last month, with unemployment in the sector up more than 7 percent from the previous month.

Figures released in January by the National Statistics Institute, which uses a different calculation method, showed a jobless queue of 5.27 million and an unemployment rate of 22.85 percent at the end of last year.

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