The kitchens of the hotel Wellington in Madrid, after reopening due to the Covid-19 pandemic | Rodrigo Jiménez

The number of people registering as jobless in Spain rose for the fourth month in a row in January to 3.96 million, as restrictions to contain new outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to limit activity.

This marked a 1.96% increase from December, data from the Labour Ministry showed on Tuesday.

Almost 40,000 jobs were created in January according to adjusted Social Security data but, excluding the calendar effect, 219,000 jobs were destroyed, with a total of just over 19 million workers registered with the Social Security.

Unemployment continued to be contained compared to the global financial crisis of a decade ago, partly thanks to Spain's ERTE furlough scheme.

The number of people in an ERTE stood at 739,000 at the end of January, which is more than 5% of all workers registered with the Social Security. In April, when COVID restrictions were much stricter, nearly 3 million people were on furlough.

The hospitality sector continued its haemorrhage of employment in January, with the country going through the peak of the third wave of the pandemic, and numerous restrictions imposed on bars and restaurants that are completely closed in at least a dozen regions.

The Spanish economy grew by 0.4% in the fourth quarter, despite an autumn of restrictions to cope with the second wave and a total, record 11% GDP contraction for the year.

The government has been optimistic about recovery in 2021, but analysts point out that the harshness of this third wave may weaken the extent of the expected rebound.