Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Thursday, 8 January 2009

Spain jobless hits 12-year high

Cranes stand over new buildings in Sesena, central Spain
Employment in Spain's construction industry has been hard hit

The unemployment rate in Spain hit a 12-year high in 2008 of 3 million, figures show, a further sign of the economic slowdown.

The construction sector, which had been booming, has been especially hard hit.

Meanwhile separate figures for the eurozone as a whole showed the jobless rate edged up in November.

Signs of rising unemployment have reinforced expectations of another cut in the eurozone interest rate when the European Central Bank meets next week.

On Thursday, the Bank of England reduced UK interest rates to 1.5%, the lowest level in its 315-year history, in an attempt to boost the economy.

'Unprecedented situation'

Spain's unemployment has soared in the past year, climbing by nearly one million or 47%.

"We are going through a new and unprecedented situation and the year will be very difficult as unemployment will continue to grow," said Maravillas Rojo, Spain's general secretary for employment.

The ministry does not post an unemployment rate, but figures from the Eurostat agency issued on Thursday put the Spanish jobless rate at 13.4% in November - the highest in the eurozone.

The latest set of overall eurozone figures put the unemployment rate in November at 7.8%, up from 7.7% the month before.

Also on Thursday a European Commission survey said its measure for eurozone business sentiment fell to 67.1 points in December - the lowest level since records started in 1990 - from 74.9 points in November.

December's survey "brings more alarming evidence that the recession in the eurozone is deepening rapidly," said Jennifer McKeown at consultants Capital Economics.

The eurozone fell into recession last year after the zone's economy shrank in both the second and third quarters of 2008.

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