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RECESSION

Economic crisis sparks growing exodus of Spaniards

Over 200,000 immigrants move on to boost massive outflow

The number of Spaniards driven to seek work in other countries by the economic crisis and particularly heavy unemployment jumped in the first half of this year.

According to figures released Tuesday by the National Statistics Institute, the number of Spaniards seeking better fortune abroad in the period January-June soared 44.2 percent to 40,625.

Spain slipped back into recession again for the second time in three years at the start of 2012. About a quarter of the working population is currently out of a job.

Immigrants drawn to the country during an economic bonanza fueled by a property boom that turned to bust at the start of 2008 are also departing in droves, with 228,890 leaving to seek a living elsewhere in the period.

The exodus cleared exceeded the number of Spaniards returning and new immigrants, which together amounted to 195,539 in the first half. As a result, the overall population fell by 33,162 from the start of the year but was up 37,962 from a year earlier at 46.163 million.

"Currently, we have become a country of emigration after having been one of immigration. More people are leaving than arriving because we are not able to keep them," said Antonio Izquierdo, a sociology professor at the University of A Coruña, in response to the figures. "If the riches of a country are its population, we are losing wealth."

Demographer Albert Sabater of the Autònoma University of Barcelona believes most of those leaving are nationalized Spaniards rather than people who were born here.