Spain's unemployment rate surpasses 17 percent

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Friday, April 24, 2009

According to official statistics, Spain's jobless rate reached 17.4%, with slightly more than four million people unemployed. The figures have doubled over the past twelve months, the National Statistics Institute reports.

The numbers are an increase over the previous jobless rate of 13.9%, which was revised in the fourth quarter of last year. Spain now has the highest level of unemployment in the European Union.

Recently, the Bank of Spain estimated that the unemployment rate in the country could go up to 19.4% by 2010.

"It is a terrible figure," said the secretary of state, Octavio Granado to local television, saying that 2009 was forecast to be the worst part of the recession. "So we are in the epicentre of the crisis. We are in the eye of the perfect storm," he said.

In an effort to revive the faltering economy, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has launched a 70 billion euro stimulus package aimed at creating tens of thousands of new jobs, primarily in the public works sector. Critics, however, say that further reforms are needed, such as lowering the costs of firing and hiring tenured staff.