Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 14:18 UK

Spanish jobless claims 'easing'

People queue outside a government job centre in Madrid
The Spanish unemployment rate is the highest in the EU

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits in Spain rose in April, but by the smallest amount in nine months, official data has shown.

Another 39,478 people registered as unemployed last month, compared with 123,543 who registered in March, Spain's Labour Ministry said.

Economy Minister Elena Salgado said a government plan to award 400,000 local public work jobs was having an effect.

At 17.4%, Spain's unemployment rate is the highest in the European Union (EU).

The average across the 27 EU countries is 8.3%.

You still can't talk of a turning point in the jobs market
Maravillas Rojo
Employment secretary general

April was the third straight month in which the rate of increase eased.

Figures for the month would have been kept down by the Easter holidays, when many hotels and restaurants take on extra temporary staff.

Tough times

Spain's economy has been been hit hard by the collapse of its construction industry in the global downturn.

And the government said the labour market had not yet recovered.

"You still can't talk of a turning point in the jobs market," said Employment Secretary General Maravillas Rojo.

The European Commission has forecast that the Spanish unemployment rate will rise to more than 20% next year.

It also says it will be the last EU member to come out of recession, probably some time in 2011.

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