Spain sees jobless total fall in December

People queuing at a Spanish unemployment office The unemployment rate in Spain is the highest in the eurozone

The number of people registered unemployed in Spain fell in December, the Labour Ministry has said, a rare glimmer of hope for its recession-hit economy.

Adjusted for seasonal swings, the total fell by 41,023, or 0.8%, in December from the previous month, the first drop since July.

Spain now has 4.85 million jobless.

But across 2012, the number registered out of work was 10% higher than a year earlier.

"It is still a very dire situation as far as unemployment is concerned," said economist Gilles Moec from Deutsche Bank.

He described the situation as concerning, but said there had been some improvements which should help strengthen Spain's economy.

"The corporate sector in Spain has made tremendous efforts in boosting productivity," he said, pointing out that this can hit the numbers of people in work.

"There has been an improvement in competitiveness and a very strong export performance," he added.

Different picture

In Germany, where two million fewer are unemployed, new figures showed the jobless rate was unchanged at 6.9% last month.

Germany's Federal Labour Agency said the seasonally-adjusted jobless rate was unchanged in December, having added 3,000 more unemployed people than the previous month.

The agency said that 2.94 million people were registered unemployed in Germany, Europe's biggest economy.

"Despite the economic dip the labour market is not suffering a breakdown," said Stefan Schilbe from HSBC Trinkaus.

"Companies are not willing to put qualified workers out of a job. Once the economy improves in the course of the year, unemployment too is likely to fall again with a delay."

Germany is the architect and chief backer of the eurozone's many bailouts as the region tries to extricate itself from a debt crisis.

Unlike most of its partners in the 17-nation eurozone, Germany has mainly escaped the worst effects of the crisis that has threatened to unravel the bloc.

But last month the central bank cut its growth forecast for 2013, saying the country's economy might be entering a recession.

'Groundwork being laid'

Spain, the eurozone's fourth-biggest economy, said that, seasonally adjusted, the number of unemployed was up by 10.3% in 2012.

But Spain's Labour Ministry said it was the best performance in the month of December since existing records began in 1996, with young people, women and first-time workers doing particularly well.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said on Tuesday he hoped for a return to job creation by the end of this year.

"I think 2013 will be better than 2012," Mr de Guindos told local radio. "The groundwork is being laid for us to begin to see positive employment growth rates in the fourth quarter of this year."

The whole 17-nation eurozone is in recession again - led by fast-shrinking economies such as Greece.

But Spain is also going through a long recession and has received a bailout for its banks from the eurozone's bailout fund.

How some eurozone economies are faring

Q4 2011 Q1 2012 Q2 2012 Q3 2012

Source: Eurostat; figures show % growth change compared with previous quarter

Eurozone

-0.3

0

-0.2

-0.1

Germany

-0.1

0.5

0.3

0.2

France

0

0

-0.1

0.2

Italy

-0.7

-0.8

-0.7

-0.2

Spain

-0.5

-0.3

-0.4

-0.3

Netherlands

-0.6

0.2

0.1

-1.1

Portugal

-1.4

-0.1

-1.1

-0.8

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