October 28, 2011 12:24 pm

Spanish unemployment nears 5m

Spanish unemployment rose to nearly 5m – 21.5 per cent of the workforce – in the third quarter of this year, underlining the gravity of the country’s economic crisis, according to data released on Friday by the National Statistics Institute (INE).

The number of jobless rose by 144,700 between the second and third quarters to reach 4.98m, in spite of the departure of thousands of jobless immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere that is reducing the Spanish population and trimming the size of the workforce. According to the government’s seasonally adjusted numbers, unemployment has reached 5.10m.

INE – which bases its employment reports on household surveys to produce figures higher than the government’s monthly count of registered unemployment – said the jobless total had risen by nearly 404,000 over the past year.

Spain’s unemployment rate is double the European Union average, and most business leaders argue that cheating by social security claimants who are actually working greatly inflates the reported figures.

The autonomous region with the highest unemployment was Andalucía in the south with 30.9 per cent, while the lowest is Navarra in the north with 11.7 per cent, INE said.

Employment in the latest quarter fell in construction, a sector ravaged by the collapse of the country’s housing bubble, as well as in services and agriculture, while industry was stable.

Unemployment is one of the main issues in campaigning ahead of the November 20 general election, in which the opposition Popular party is predicted by opinion polls to win a crushing victory over the incumbent Socialists.

Esteban González Pons, an outspoken PP politician, said on Friday that the latest jobless figures showed that “we can’t sink any lower”. He said in a radio interview: “We have a record number of unemployed in Spain and now, with the elections ahead, Spaniards have the chance to do something about it.”

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