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Jobless growth in Spain outpaces rest of EU

MADRID, December 2 – The number of registered unemployed in Spain rose to nearly three million people last month as unemployment continued to grow at a faster pace in the country than in the rest of Europe, official data showed Tuesday.

The number of people filing jobless claims rose by 6.0 percent, or 171,243, in November over the previous month to reach 2,989,269 people, its eighth consecutive monthly increase, the labour ministry said in a statement.

That compares to a rise in the number of jobless in France in October of 46,900 over the previous month and of 140,000 in Britain during all of the third quarter when compared to the previous three months.

The ministry does not release the unemployment rate, which is measured using a different survey by the national statistics institute INE.

But according to European Union statistics office Eurostat, Spain\’s unemployment rate stood at 12.8 percent in October, compared to an average of 7.6 percent in the entire euro zone.

Spain had until recently led job creation in the euro region but the bulk of the jobs created in recent years were in service sectors or construction "which are highly volatile and sensitive to economic cycles," said Gustavo Matias Clavero, an economics professor at Madrid\’s Autonomous University.

"When Europe is doing well, Spain does better, there is much job creation, but when Europe is going badly, there is much destruction of employment in Spain," he told AFP.

Up to 40 percent of all jobs created in recent years in the country of some 46 million people were in services sectors like tourism and construction, he said.

The service sector accounted for over half, 57 percent, of all new registered unemployed last month while the construction sector was responsible for about one quarter of all job losses that month.

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Spain\’s once-buoyant economy is on the verge of recession as the global financial crisis has hit the key construction sector, which was already weakened by oversupply and rising interest rates.

The Spanish economy contracted for the first time since 1993 in the third quarter, shrinking 0.2 percent, and most economists expected it will shrink again during the fourth quarter.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero unveiled Thursday an 11-billion-euro (14-billion-dollar) economic stimulus plan that calls for heavy spending on public works and other stimulus measures to create 300,000 jobs next year.

Deputy Labor Minister Maravillas Rojo put a positive spin on the latest jobless numbers, drawing attention to the fact that the rise in November was lower than the increase of around 192,000 registered unemployed posted in October.

"Even though we\’re still going through a period of great difficulty, the November figure reflects a slowing down in the rise in jobless claims from the previous month," she said, adding she was "convinced" that government measures to tackle the problem would bear fruit.

Others are not as optimistic. The chairman of Spain\’s main employers\’ organization CEOE, Gerardo Diaz Ferran, said "we will reach four million unemployed next year, that is an unemployment rate of 17 percent."

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, predicts the unemployment rate will hit 13.8 percent in 2009 while the Washington-based International Monetary Fund forecasts it will rise to 14.7 percent that year.

The unemployment rate has risen steadily since it dipped to 7.95 percent in the second quarter of 2007, its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 1978.

Spain\’s unemployment rate climbed as high as 25 percent following the recession of 1993.

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