Palma.—The National Statistics Institute report reveal that 17'300 people lost their jobs in the Balearics during the first quarter of this year taking the total number of people out of work to 163'900 which is 28.1 percent of the active population, nearly four percent higher than the national average.

Only in Andalusia and the Canary Islands is unemployment higher than here in the Balearics.
The unions obviously have not welcomed the news and have been calling for protests this Sunday against the government's policies all week, before yesterday's worrying figures were released.

And, not even the Balearic government could put any positive spin on the figures apart from the fact that over the past 12 months, 17'000 jobs have been created in the Balearics.

But, that rise has made no dent into the active population figures and a business survey published yesterday revealed that while 50 percent are confident that the Balearics will emerge from the recession next year, the next six months, the situation will get worse and the employment market will not bottom out until the end of the year. But, it has not been just the Balearics which has taken a hit since the start of the year, the country has as a whole. Spain's jobless rate soared to a record 24.4 percent in a deepening recession in the first quarter piling on the misery hours after a sharp credit-rating downgrade.

A total 5.64 million people searched in vain for work in the deficit-plagued Spanish economy, the fourth-biggest in the troubled eurozone, the National Statistic Institute said.

Spain already had the highest level of unemployment in the industrialised world as the slumping economy failed to absorb the millions of workers who have lost their jobs since a massive property bubble imploded in 2008.

The slump has been compounded by stiff government austerity measures to rein in the public deficit and curb mushrooming debt, making jobs even harder to find.

The unemployment rate hit 24.44 percent in the first quarter, up sharply from 22.85 percent in the last three months of 2011, the National Statistics Institute report showed.

Some 365'900 jobs were lost in the quarter, pushing the unemployment rate to its highest level since records began in their existing format in 1996, it said.

Hours earlier, Standard and Poor's downgraded Spain's sovereign credit rating to BBB+, with a negative outlook, warning of recession this year and next which will make it even harder to meet deficit-cutting targets.

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