Registered unemployment rises above five million people for the first time

February rise in joblessness is the lowest since 2008

Spain’s long-lasting recession continues to take its toll on employment. According to figures released on Monday by the Labor Ministry, the number of people registered as unemployed with Spain’s state employment offices has risen above five million for the first time in history.

The increase in joblessness in February came in at 59,444, a rise of 1.19 percent over the previous month, which takes the overall figure to 5,040,222. Compared with a year earlier, 328,124 more people are out of work in Spain today than one year ago.

Social Security registrations in February fell by 28,691 people, leaving the total number of workers signed up to the system at 16.1 million, the lowest level in the past decade.

The February rise in unemployment was the lowest for that month since 2008 when the current crisis had not fully kicked in. Picking up on this, the secretary of state for employment, Engracia Hidalgo, said she was encouraged by the slowdown in the pace of the economy shedding jobs “within the current context of an economic recession.”

“At some point, firms cannot cut further,” Bloomberg quoted Guillaume Menuet, an economist at Citigroup in London, as saying. “Perhaps we are reaching the end of the largest increases we had in the past, but a turnaround in the jobless rate in 2013 is very unlikely.”

Not only is it a bad figure, it is also a sad figure because it reflects a lack of motivation"

Economic output shrank last year by 1.4 percent as Spain slipped into recession for the second time in four years. The government expects GDP to contract by only 0.5 percent, but the European Commission estimates a decline of 1.4 percent and a further rise in unemployment to close to 27 percent.

According to the Active Population Survey (EPA), compiled by the National Statistics Institute, there are almost six million people out of work in Spain, with the jobless rate at the end of last year rising to 26 percent. The EPA figure is greater as many people do not register as being out of work, particularly if they are not eligible for any subsidies.

Referring to the February jobless claims, Reuters quoted Citigroup strategist in Madrid, José Luis Martínez, as saying: “Not only is it a bad figure, it is also a sad figure because it reflects a lack of motivation to go out and look for work on the part of the unemployed because they don’t see any improvement in the situation.”

Young people have again been hard hit, with the level of unemployment among the under-25s increasing by 16,026, a rise of 3.46 percent in February. Growing numbers of younger people are moving abroad to look for work.

Jobless claims also rose in the rest of the sectors in February, climbing 1.28 percent in services, 0.29 percent in industry and 0.18 percent in construction.

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