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First quarter of 2011

Unemployment in Spain rises sharply to 21.3 percent



The National Statistics Institute put the total number of unemployed at 4,910,200 at the end of March.

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Spain''s unemployment rate rose sharply to a new eurozone record of 21.3 percent in the first quarter of the year, with nearly 5 million people out of work, the government said Friday.

The rate is a one percentage point jump from 20.3 percent hit at the close of 2010, and adds pressure on Spain as it tries to recover from nearly two years of recession and convince investors that it can handle its debt load.

The country is trying to shift away from dependence on the construction sector, which had supported growth for years until the financial crisis popped the property bubble, as well as make the economy more competitive and reduce national debt.

The National Statistics Institute put the total number of unemployed at 4,910,200 at the end of March, up about 214,000 from the previous quarter, INE said.

Jobs were lost across the entire Spanish economy, with services, manufacturing, agriculture and construction all taking a hit.

A general election must be held by March 2012 and polls show the ruling Socialists trailing badly. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has stated publicly he will not seek a third term.

As much of Europe recovers from the global recession, Spain is forecasting meager growth of just 1.3 percent for itself in 2011, and even the Bank of Spain says that prediction is too optimistic.

Friday''s report said the number of households in which everyone is unemployed, it is common for young Spaniards to live at home well into their 30s, in part because traditionally it has been so hard to find a job, rose by 58,000 to about 1.4 million.

The numbers came out on the same day the government was expected to pass a plan to crack down on tax evasion by flushing out the country''s vibrant underground economy. Some estimates say radar-evading work and transactions account for up to 20 percent of Spanish economic output.


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