Jobless claims fall for second month in a row in April thanks to hostelry sector

Economy minister welcomes the figures as indicating a turning point

El País Agencies
Madrid -

Jobless claims dropped for the second month in a row in April, bringing some welcome relief to Spain’s sclerotic labor market. But the improvement was largely due to seasonal hiring in the hostelry sector.

According to figures released Monday by the Labor Ministry, the number of people signed on as out of work at employment offices across the country dropped by 46,050, or 0.91 percent, to 4.989 million.

The number of workers registered as in work with the Social Security system rose by 51,077 to 16,232 million. More than four-fifths of these were employed in the hostelry industry, as the sector geared up for the start of the main tourist season. The number of freelance workers registered with the Social Security system climbed by 11,900, the biggest increase in five years.

Affiliation increased in Catalonia, Murcia, Navarre, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Cantabria, Andalusia, and particularly the Balearic Islands, where it climbed seven percent and accounted for half of the increase. Jobless claims fell in almost all of the regions, with the notable exceptions of the Canary Islands and Valencia.

The National Statistics Institute’s Active Population Survey (EPA) for the first quarter showed an unprecedented 6.2 million people were out of work, as the jobless rate hit a record 27.2 percent.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos welcomed Monday's figures, which he said were in line with the government’s prediction of a gradual easing of Spain’s second recession in barely four years.

“The figures are good and indicate a turning point in the Spanish economy,” De Guindos said. “We have put a very difficult period behind us. The Spanish economy is now much stronger and healthier.” De Guindos said 2013 would be a year of transition toward an economic recovery and the creation of jobs, which are expected to arrive next year.

However, after removing seasonal factors, the jobless claims figures gave less room for optimism. On this basis, the number of people registered as unemployed increased by 17,663, while the number of workers registered with the Social Security system declined by some 23,500.

“In underlying terms, the figures continue to show the weakness of the labor market and the economy,” Reuters quoted Citigroup strategist in Madrid, José Luis Martínez, as saying. “I believe the figures are not consistent with the slowdown in the fall in GDP [predicted by the government] in the second quarter.”

The Labor Ministry echoed De Guindos in putting a positive spin on the figures. The secretary of state for employment, Engracia Hidalgo, pointed to the 1.153 million work contracts signed in April, the biggest number for a single month since 2008.

“We are about to complete a year of monthly jobless figures showing improvements on the same month a year earlier,” Hidalgo said.

Jobless claims fell by 8,030 in agriculture, 4,704 in industry, 18,699 in construction and 18,407 in the services sector. Jobless claims among first-time jobseekers rose by 3,790.

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