Spanish unemployment has risen to its highest level in a year and a half following an increase in the number of layoffs in the construction industry and the service sector. With the total number of people without jobs nearing two million, the figures are not good news for Prime Minister Zapatero six weeks before a general election.
In the final three months of 2007 it reached 8.6% of the working population up from 8.03% in the previous quarter, it was 7.95% in the second quarter and in the early part of the year 8.47%. Labour Minister Jesus Caldera said: “It’s true these figures are bad, but it’s cyclical, it’s happened before and the Spanish economy will be able to overcome this situation.”
Analysts feel that unemployment will rise more sharply this year reaching around 9% despite government promises to cut the rate below 8% in 2008. The total number of jobless was at 11% when Zapatero came to power in 2004, but a recent slowdown in the Spanish economy has reduced his narrow lead over the opposition conservative Popular Party in opinion polls.