By Humphrey Carter
PALMA

THE Minister for Tourism and Employment, Joana Barcelo, has not had a good week to say the least.
After two of her most senior employees resigned at the Ministry for Tourism, the 2010 Active Population Study, carried out by the national Statistics Institute, revealed yesterday that, at the end of last year, there were a total of 128'600 people out of work in the Balearics.

Over the course of last year, 16'200 (14.45 percent) more people lost their jobs than in 2009 and the rate of unemployment in the Balearics is now running at 22.3 percent, two points above the national average and the rate of growth in unemployment is nearly double the national average of 8.5 percent.

According to the report, the number of people out of work has been steadily rising since 2006, the last year that a drop in unemployment was recorded.
The latest figures has set alarm bells ringing with local elections under four months away.

In the final quarter of last year, 56'000 jobs were lost and local union leaders said yesterday that the latest figures are extremely worrying and that they can see no silver lining for the out of work.

What the unions are most concerned about is that not all of the 128'600 people out of work, are no longer registered with the unemployment office.
Some have either decided to sign off and opt for alternative options while others have watched their dole entitlement run out. “And, the latest information and data we have certainly does not suggest that things are going to improve,” said Xisco Mellado, Secretary of the Balearic CC.OO workers' commission.

But, it is the opposition Partido Popular which has really latched on to the figures here in the Balearics and unemployment looks set to become one of the main election issues.

The PP's candidate for President of the Council of Majorca, Maria Salom, yesterday claimed that the combination of Antich and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero “is a lethal cocktail for the Balearics and that the region clearly needs change.” But, it is not only here in the Balearics where unemployment has hit record highs.
Central government also announced yesterday that its jobless rate surged to a 13-year record above 20 per cent at the end of 2010, the highest level in the industrialised world, as the economy struggled for air.

It was more bad news for an economy fighting to regain the trust of financial markets and avoid being trapped in a debt quagmire that has engulfed Greece and Ireland and now menaces Portugal.

Another 121'900 people joined Spain's unemployment queues in the final quarter of the year, pushing the total to 4.697 million people, said the national statistics insititute INE.

The resulting unemployment rate was 20.33 per cent for the end of the year - easily exceeding Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's target of 19.4 per cent.

Spain appears to be stuck in a rut of staggeringly high levels of unemployment.
After posting a jobless rate of 18.83 per cent in 2009 and now 20.33 per cent in 2010, the government is forecasting 19.3 per cent for 2011 and 17.5 per cent in 2012.

Unemployment has climbed steadily since the summer of 2007, surging after the collapse of a property bubble in 2008 which plunged the economy into a deep recession.

The data also shows unemployment remains fairly variable within the country, with a growing gap between the wealthier northern and the poorer southern regions - unemployment stood at close to 11 percent in the Basque Country, and 29 percent in the Canary Islands, higher than here in the Balearics.

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