By Humphrey Carter & Manuel Maria Ruiz

PALMA/MADRID
THE true extent of the unemployment problem gripping the Balearics was revealed yesterday when official government first quarter figures were released stating that the total number of people out of work in the region is 127'400, significantly higher than data leaked at the start of the week which put the figure at 110'800.

What is more, the Balearics continues to have the fifth highest unemployment rate in Spain at 22.41 percent which is well over double the European Union average.

March ended with nearly 15 percent, 16'000, more members of the active population out of work than at the end of the first quarter of last year and the Balearic government, which had been forecasting a substantial improvement in the employment market as Easter and the summer holiday season drew closer, was yesterday forced to admit that the figures are “extremely worrying”.

Balearic government spokesperson, Joana Barcelo, the current Minister for Tourism but former Minister for Employment, said yesterday that the government is going to do “everything possible” to combat the worsening situation.

Barcelo said that one of the biggest creators of jobs is private investment but, because of the current economic climate, attracting investment from the private sector is proving difficult.

Nevertheless, the Balearic President, Francesc Antich, is calling a full cabinet meeting next week to assess the situation and discuss effective measures which can be introduced as quickly as possible to start cutting the dole queues.

Barcelo also explained that the government is studying a series of measures to stimulate private investment in the region.