Spain's unemployment rate shot up to 26 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, marking one of the highest rates in the developed world, according to numbers released Thursday by the country's National Office of Statistics
The rate rose from 25 percent in the third quarter as the country tries to rebound from its second recession in just over three years, following the 2008 collapse of its once-booming real estate sector.
In comparison, even during the bleakest days of the Great Depression in the United States the unemployment rate only briefly got as high as 25 percent. The U.S. rate was 7.8 percent in December 2012.
In efforts to avoid a bailout, Spain's year-old conservative government has made major financial and labor reforms and applied severe austerity measures such as cutbacks in wages and spending as well as tax increases.
With 5.9 million people out of work, Spain’s unemployment rate is double that of the rest of the Eurozone nations, the Los Angeles Times reported. The country’s weak economy has caused an exodus of both Spaniards and foreigners moving to other European countries and the United States in search of a more stable economy and more job opportunities. About 70 percent more people left Spain in 2011 than in 2010, statistics show.
The breakdown in the job market has especially affected young people, with 100,000 fewer people age 20-24 employed.
Unemployment is also especially widespread in the south part of the county, which had flourished from the housing boom that began a decade ago.
Spain's central bank this week estimated that economic activity was down 1.7 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier and down 1.3 percent for the whole of 2012.
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