By Humphrey Carter PALMA

THE unemployment crisis facing the Balearics is worse than initially feared after a report published yesterday revealed that there are in fact 112'400 people out of work and that the region suffered the sharpest rise in jobs losses in Spain last year.

The Active Population Survey released by the National Statistics Institute contradicts claims made by the Balearic government that unemployment did not hit the 100'000 barrier at the end of last year.

The reality is that the number of people out of work is over that threshold, as regional union bosses had been warning throughout the final quarter of last year, and that the rate of unemployment in the Balearics for 2009 was 19.54 percent, 0.7 percent higher than the Spanish national average and nearly double the 10 percent rate of unemployment in the eurozone.

The number of people out of work last year was nearly 62 percent higher than in 2008 and the regional government was yesterday forced to admit that it is worried about the current situation.

Local union leaders slammed the figures as the “worst possible” and warned that the alarming high rate of unemployment is fueling the rapid growth of a black market. In an attempt to ease public concern, the Balearic government spokesperson and Minister for Work, Joana Barcelo, claimed that unemployment has now hit a “ceiling” and that there will be a gradual slow down in the rate of unemployment over the course of this year.

The Minister explained that economically, the final quarter of last year performed far worse than forecast here in the Balearics.
Across the 27-nation EU, December's rate of unemployment was 9.6 percent with more than 23 million people calculated to be out of work across the world's biggest open trading bloc. That meant that in the last year, 4.628 million people joined the ranks of the jobless across the EU

But, Spain, which is the EU's fifth largest economy, just like the Balearics, is struggling to turn its economic and employment prospects around. A total of 4.326 million people were out of work in Spain at the end of last year, up more than one million from a year ago.

Experts have repeatedly expressed fears of a “double-dip” recession here in Spain.
It has been the collapse of a debt-fueled construction boom as well as the global crisis which has caused Spain's unemployment rate to more than double over the past two years and joblessness among young people surge beyond 40 percent.