Spain jobless figures down significantly as crisis eases

MADRID (AFP) – The number of new jobseekers in Spain was close to 27,000 in May, around 10 times lower than in March and April during the coronavirus lockdown, the Labour Ministry said yesterday.

Spain imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 14 to slow the spread of the virus, and that month it counted more than 302,000 new jobseekers and another 280,000 in April.

But in May, as the lockdown was gradually eased, the government counted a total of 26,573 new jobseekers in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy, where the total number of unemployed stands at 3.8 million.

At the end of March, the National Statistics Institute (INE), which calculates figures in a different way, gave Spain’s jobless figure as 3.31 million.

These figures do not count those who have been furloughed.

People queue to get a free food ration at the Aluche Neighbourhood Association’s (AVA) food bank in Madrid on May 16. The number of new jobseekers in Spain was close to 27,000 in May, around 10 times lower than in March and April during the coronavirus lockdown, the Labour Ministry said yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

Between mid-March and the end of May, a total of 3.7 million people were furloughed under a plan rolled out by the Labour Ministry.

The leftwing government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez banned layoffs and simplified access to such temporary unemployment programmes in a bid to ease the impact of the crisis in employment.

But when the furlough scheme draws to a close as planned at the end of June, unemployment figures could rise again.

The government has urged there to be no job axed in the six months following the furlough period but layoffs are expected.

In May, as the lockdown was eased, the number of new jobseekers in the construction sector fell by almost seven per cent compared with April.

In industry and agriculture, the figure remained stable but it grew by 1.5 per cent in the service sector which has borne the brunt of the crisis, particularly due to the loss of significant numbers of temporary jobs in tourism.

In the first quarter, Spain’s unemployment rate jumped to 14.4 per cent, INE figures showed.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates unemployment in Spain could soar to 20.8 per cent in 2020, while the government expects a figure of 19 per cent.