Spain celebrates as number of jobless claims falls

Spain-unemployment
MADRID -- After an all-night party to fete their national soccer team, Spaniards who managed a few winks of sleep woke up Tuesday to even more good news: the biggest summertime jobs rally in 16 years.

Nearly 100,000 fewer Spaniards filed for jobless claims in June, a record compared with the last 16 summers. June usually triggers a hiring spree at the start of Spain's busy tourist season. But government data released Tuesday show last month saw the biggest employment boost since 1996.

It was also the third consecutive month in which Spain's unemployment rate has edged downward, falling 2.1% in June, the Labor Ministry said.

“We have to wait to see if this becomes an overall tendency,” the deputy labor minister, Engracia Hidalgo, said in a statement.

Jobless claims figures were the second piece of good news for the nation this week. Spain swept Italy 4-0 on Sunday in the final of the European Championships, and Spaniards have staged massive street parties since then.

But despite promising figures from June, nearly 1 in  4 Spaniards is still jobless, and the rate is double that for youth. Spain has Europe's highest unemployment rate. According to statistics released Monday by Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, the overall unemployment rate among the 17 nations that use the euro is 11.1%, the highest it's been since the shared currency's creation in 1999.

In Spain, labor reforms passed this year have made it easier for companies to lay off workers during a recession. And Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said Tuesday that more austerity measures are planned, in order to shrink Spain's yawning budget gap. Those are likely to include tax hikes on consumer sales, energy and property. New measures are often announced at weekly Cabinet meetings each Friday.

Speaking at a breakfast gathering of business leaders, De Guindos also said that ailing Spanish banks could get European aid money within weeks. Spain has applied for as much as $125 billion in bailout loans to rescue banks drowning in unpaid real estate loans.

Terms of the bailout, including the exact amount and interest rate for repayment, are expected be announced Monday at a Eurozone finance ministers' meeting. The loan would be disbursed to Spanish banks in installments rather than a lump sum, De Guindos said.

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Photo: People line up outside an unemployment office in Madrid on Tuesday. The number of people claiming jobless  benefits in Spain went down sharply in June as employers embarked on a hiring spree to prepare for the busy summer tourist season. Credit: Andres Kudacki / Associated Press

 

 
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