Palma.—Signs that the Balearics could recover from the economic storm quicker than the mainland were given a boost yesterday with the announcement that the islands were the only place in Spain where the unemployment rate actually fell last month.

The jobless rate dropped by 1'562 in February (compared to January) meaning there are still close to 94'000 people without employment but things are improving. There is even better news for the islands when you compare the jobless rate with February of last year which showed that there are 4'000 more people in work.

The service sector was the area where most new jobs were created last month eventhough this sector is where there are the most number of unemployed. Official figures say that almost two thirds of those without a job worked in so-called white collar industries. Even the hard pressed building industry created new jobs last month with unemployment in this sector dropping by 311 people.

Over recent weeks a number of local hotels have re-opened and there has also been jobs created by retailers.
But the economic picture on the mainland was not so upbeat. The Labour Ministry said the number of people who are officially registered as unemployed has surpassed a record five million.

The ministry also announced that the number of people who registered for unemployment benefits increased by 59'444 or 1.2 percent in February, compared to a month earlier, leaving a record 5.04 million Spaniards registered as jobless.

Battered by the global financial downturn, the Spanish economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs. The Spanish government has already taken painful austerity measures to contain its budget shortfall.

The Labour Ministry also released data on the overall unemployment rate, which stood at 26.02 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, indicating the highest level since 1975.

Spain must lower its budget deficit to 4.5 percent in 2013 and 2.8 percent in 2014. Economists, however, say those targets will be difficult to meet amid poor prospects for economic recovery in the country.

The worsening debt crisis has forced the governments of the European Union to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms.