- Economic crisis - European Union - layoffs - Spain - unemployment
AFP - The number of unemployed in Spain almost doubled in the past 12 months to more than four million, with the jobless rate rising to by far the highest level in the EU, official data showed Friday.
The unemployment rate went from 13.91 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008 to 17.36 percent in the first quarter of this year, or an additional 802,800 jobless, the National Statistics Institute said in a statement.
"The total number of unemployed is at 4.01 million, with a rise of 1.836 million in the last 12 months," it said.
In comparison, unemployment in the 27-nation European Union was 7.9 percent in February.
It is the highest rate in Spain since the fourth quarter of 1998, when it was 17.99 percent, while the number of unemployed is the most since at least 1976, when such data was first recorded.
The figures released Friday are far worse than predictions by the Socialist government at the start of the year, which projected an unemployment rate of 15.9 percent for 2009.
The central bank early this month forecast the rate would reach 17.1 percent in 2009 and 19.4 percent in 2010.
The Spanish economy entered its first recession in 15 years at the end of 2008 as the global financial crisis accelerated a downturn that was already underway in its once-buoyant property sector.
The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said Spain will see full two years of recession, with the economy contracting 3.0 percent this year and 0.6 percent in 2010 and unemployment hitting 19.3 percent next year.