The Spanish labor market created over 400,000 jobs last year and unemployment fell to 18.6% in the final quarter of 2016, according to new figures released on Thursday by the National Statistics Institute (INE). While one of the highest in Europe, that is the lowest unemployment rate Spain has seen in the last seven years.
But there are still more than four million people without a job despite three straight years of a job market recovery.
Data from the quarterly workforce survey known as the Encuesta de Población Activa (Active Population Survey, or EPA) shows that the Spanish economy created 413,600 jobs in 2016, representing 3% growth in the 12-month period. It is the second year in a row that job creation grew at a similar rate.
The number of people willing and able to work fell by over 100,000 individuals
Meanwhile, the number of unemployed people in the country fell by 541,700. This is a drop of 11.3% in a year but not as large as the fall of 678,200 seen in 2015.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy celebrated the new figures in radio statements on Onda Cero, underscoring that from 2013 to 2016, Spain created 1,750,000 jobs.
“There is still a lot left to do, but five straight years of economic crisis cannot be resolved in 15 minutes,” he said. “If we are able to maintain economic policy (...) we will reach 20 million people in employment.”
The job market recovery is not noticeable when it comes to the size of the labor force, which keeps shrinking. The number of people willing and able to work fell by over 100,000 individuals to 22.7 million in the final quarter of 2016, for an economic activity rate of 58.9%.
English version by Susana Urra.