The relentless lengthening of Spain’s jobless queues continues apace, new figures showed yesterday, with more than one in four now out of work, the worst unemployment levels in the country since General Franco’s dictatorship ended in November 1975 and modern records began.
Spain’s latest jobless total of 25.02 per cent of its workforce, or 5.8 million people, up from 24.6 per cent, is second only to Greece in the eurozone, and more than double the European average of 11.4 percent. Jobless totals have now tripled in the EU’s fourth-largest economy since 2007, and nearly a third of Spain’s 50 provinces now suffer from 30 per cent unemployment.
A new negative landmark of 6 million – as seasonal industries such as tourism shed employees, Spain’s second recession in bites ever more deeply with its fifth straight quarter of contraction, and the country’s public sector shrinks dramatically under the impact of over €60bn of austerity cuts, the most severe in recent history – is expected to be reached this winter.
Whilst the latest figures will do little to lower the pressure on Mariano Rajoy’s government to seek a full banking bailout, in a press conference yesterday morning, the Economy Minister, Fernando Jimenez LaTorre, predicted that the jobless total would not drop before until the end of 2013.
“Employment and economic activity go hand in hand,” he commented.
Government forecasts say the Spanish economy will shrink by 0.5 per cent in 2013, although other analysts, among them the IMF, say that over double that figure is more likely.
“Every new set of unemployment figures makes us want to work harder,” said the government spokeswoman Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, who also claimed that the public sector had been the hardest hit, and that in the private sector unemployment figures were stabilising.
In the latest round of job losses, more than 56,000 jobs have disappeared in the construction industry alone – the hardest hit in the third quarter of 2012 – with the services sector shedding 32,700, and employment in agriculture dropping by 11,900.
The town of Ceuta in north Africa, one of Spain’s last two tiny enclaves in the continent, has the highest level of unemployment: 41 per cent. The Basque country, one of Spain’s industrial heartlands, is at the opposite end of the spectrum, with just 15 per cent.
The number of families with all their members out of work continues to increase, to 1,737,900 households. One likely knock-on effect will be an increase in the number of Spanish families who say they have no money for unexpected financial emergencies, already standing at 40 per cent earlier this month. More than one in 10 Spanish families were also reported as having difficulties in paying their monthly bills, and 44 per cent of Spanish families can no longer afford even one annual holiday a year.
The ever-bleaker outlook for job seekers means emigration is steadily on the rise, too. The total of Spaniards leaving the country rose to 54,912 in the first nine months of 2012, an increase of 21 per cent compared to the same period in 2011. In the province of Galicia, local media estimate that 70 young people leave the province in search of work every day.
Self-employment, too, is increasing fast – in the third quarter the total rose by 65,000, the highest since 2006, well before Spain’s latest economic recession began.
The latest data is also certain to intensify protests among those that remain, with a general strike scheduled for 14 November – the first time that a government has faced two such nationwide industrial action in the same year.
Yesterday Madrid’s transport system faced its second go-slow in a month, while a wave of protests against education and health cuts swept the country in September and October.