The number of people registered as without a job in Spain topped three million for the first time ever in December.
And the Madrid government is warning that unemployment will get worse this year as the global economic crisis continued to hammer the country’s formerly property-driven economy. After nine straight month of increases, the jobless total has now reached 3.13 million, that is almost one million higher that at the end of 2007. That is 13 percent of the working population; the highest rate in the European Union. Spain’s secretary-general for employment, Maravillas Rojo, said: “It’s a difficult situation that’s not yet over. I believe everyone in Spain should recall what the prime minister said in his address to the nation at the end of the year, that we’ve reached the worst and most difficult part of this economic crisis.” Even for those still with jobs there is less work. Manufacturers have responded to weaker demand by cutting output. At an Iveco vehicle assembly plant in Andalusia one worker explained: “From next week until the end of the month we’re going to work alternate weeks. That is we’ll work one week and then not the next.” The government is rolling out economic stimulus packages, but economists predict Spanish unemployment will rise to over four million by 2010. The International Monetary Fund has warned that Spain could suffers years of low growth and high unemployment unless it reforms labour laws and develops economic substitutes to the construction industry.