Staff Reporter CLAIMS for unemployment benefit in the month of January fell by 0.20 percent in the Balearics but rose in the rest of Spain. According to the central government Ministry of Employment, regions adversely affected were Navarra where figures rose by 7.13 percent, followed by La Rioja and Asturias, where growths of 6.67 and 6.23 percent, respectively were registered. Looking at the country as a whole, the number of unemployed rose last month by 50'481, leaving the final total of people out of work at 1'761'968, which represents 9.2 percent of the working population. Apart from Navarra, La Rioja and Asturias, unemployment in the month of January also increased to a large extent in the Canary Islands (5.62 percent), the Basque Country (5.34 percent), Castilla y León (5.16 percent), Valencia (4.96 percent), Cantabria (4.53 prcent), Madrid (3.85 percent) and Murcia (3.12 percent). Unemployment figures rose, but less than the national average in Galicia (2.47 percent), Catalonia (2.37 percent), Aragón (1.84 percent), Castilla-La Mancha (1.55 percent), Extremadura (1.07 percent) and Andalucia (0.56 percent).

The Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa were badly affected, registering increases in unemployment figures of 14.36 and 4.77 percent, respectively. In absolute terms, unemployment in January rose most in Madrid and in Valencia with 7'431 and 7'095 more people out of work, respectively; followed by the Canary Islands (5'750) and Castilla y León (5'282). Over the last 12 months, unemployment has risen in 10 regions, especially in the Canary Islands (10.05 percent), Cantabria (7.75 percent) and Valencia (6.09 percent); as well as Ceuta (9 percent and Melilla (17.65 percent). Since January 2003, the number of those out of work has gone down in seven regions, most significantly in Aragón (-8.49 percent), followed by la Rioja (-6.09 percent) and Navarra (-4 percent).