Palma.—The Balearic government yesterday tried to put some spin on the latest unemployment figures by championing the fact that the rise in the number of people out of work in December was just 0.79 percent, well below the national average of 7.45 percent.

However, there was no shying away from the fact that the year ended with 98'087 people officially registered out of work and with the unions claiming that, in reality, that figure is going to be much higher because many people have signed off from the social services and job centres.

What is more, year-on-year, there are 6'799 more people out of work.
Balearic Minister for Work, Joana Maria Camps, said that the minimal increase is “positive” news but warned that there is a sense of “uncertainty” amongst employers because no one is too sure how the new government's austerity plan is going to work. After an increase in unemployment for the fifth consecutive month across the country to a new 15-year high, the official data poses a stiff challenge to the country's new centre right government. The number of registered unemployed rose from the previous month by 1'897 people, or 0.04 percent, to 4.42 million, its highest level since the labour minister started collecting the figures in 1996.

The number of jobless was up by 322'286 people, or 7.86 percent, in December from the same month a year ago. “The figures for the number of registered unemployed for the month of December confirm the deterioration of the economic situation during the second half of the year,” the Ministry for Employment said in a statement.

Spain, once the motor of job creation in the eurozone, has struggled to find jobs for the millions thrown out of work by the collapse of a labour-intensive property bubble in 2008.

The Bank of Spain warned last week that the economy shrank in the fourth quarter of 2011 as tourism and exports, the drivers of a modest recovery, weakened. The grim report fueled fears that Spain, the eurozone's fourth-largest economy, was heading back into recession after the economy posted zero growth in the third quarter of 2011.

The new government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has vowed to make fighting unemployment and fixing the country's finances its top priorities. It plans to present a major employment market reform this month which will change hiring laws and the collective bargaining system to try to encourage the hiring of workers.

The Secretary of State for Employment, Engracia Hidalgo, said the successive labour reforms carried out by the previous Socialist government “never made the labour market more dynamic and flexible”.

Spain's welfare system only allows workers to receive unemployment benefits for a maximum of two years.
But Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's government has extended a monthly payment of 400 euros for people whose benefits have run out.


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