By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE latest Balearic unemployment figures have set alarm bells ringing with union bosses announcing that the region is not suffering a mere downturn but a “crisis.” Over the past year, over 9'000 jobs have been lost in the Balearics with the total number of unemployed standing at 36'929 at the end of June; 33.2 percent higher than in June of 2007, and the CC.OO workers' commission is calling on the Balearic government to take immediate action to try and freeze spiralling unemployment.

Construction and the service sector are being hit the hardest and the regional Minister for Employment, Margarita Najera, was yesterday forced to admit that the tourist sector is unable to soak up the jobs being lost in the building industry.

The Minister recognised that the Balearics is going through a “difficult” situation as a result of the global economic slowdown, the fall in consumer confidence and a reduction in domestic consumption. Najera explained that while the tourist industry is offering alternative employment to some of those made redundant by the construction sector, “the sudden halt in the building industry was much sharper than expected.” The director of the Balearic Construction Association, Manuel Gomez, said yesterday that the unemployment figures are a “serious setback” for the trade.

Year-on-year unemployment in the sector is up by 87 percent and, according to Gomez, the situation is going to get even worse unless central government introduces measures to ease the crisis gripping the construction industry.

He said that, on the whole, the sector is confident that the government will come to their aid but warned that empty promises do not create jobs and therefore the government needs to speed up its action before it is too late. Najera, who is optimistic that the tourist season will eventually help to ease the pressure on the local economy, said that the Balearic government is still waiting for funds to be made available by Madrid so that a series of public construction projects can be given the green light as part of the local government's plan to revive the construction industry.

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