Third coronavirus wave pushes unemployment in Spain above four-million mark

Social Security affiliations grew less this month of February than in the previous eight years

An unemployment office in Valencia.
An unemployment office in Valencia.Rober Solsona (Europa Press)

More than four million people are now registered as unemployed in Spain. The restrictions of the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic led to 44,436 new jobless claims in February, pushing the total to 4,008,789. The last time that this symbolic threshold was crossed was in April 2016.

The Social Security system added an average of just over 20,000 contributors, reflecting new jobs, according to data released on Tuesday by the Labor and Social Security ministries. But this increase is much smaller than in other years, and meanwhile, the number of people affected by the government’s ERTE furlough scheme grew by 91,500.

The figures reflect how businesses are showing signs of exhaustion after a crisis that has dragged on for close to a year now. February is normally a transitional month when jobs, as measured by Social Security affiliations, bounce back after the usual January slump.

The figures reflect how businesses are showing signs of exhaustion after a crisis that has dragged on for close to a year now

This has happened again to some degree, and total affiliations now number 18.85 million. But the February rise was much greater during the eight preceding years. And seasonally adjusted figures, which factor in the effects of harvesting and tourism on hiring, show that affiliations fell by over 30,000 in February.

Coronavirus restrictions have also had a noticeable effect on the number of furloughed workers. Significant limits on movement and business activity – with the exception of the Madrid region – have led employers to temporarily send home or reduce the working hours of nearly 900,000 workers.

It remains to be seen whether the Easter holidays, when regional governments are expected to further ease restrictions based on improving epidemiological figures, will help boost the labor market. But so far, the first quarter of the year is confirming that the government’s relief programs – including the ERTE job-retention scheme and state-guaranteed loans – are not enough to shore up distressed businesses. And it looks like the recently announced €11-billion package will not contain direct aid despite reiterated requests by affected industries.

English version by Susana Urra.

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