Spain's efforts to reduce its swollen deficit have gone better than expected in 2010, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Tuesday.
Speaking on Onda Cero radio, Zapatero added that Spain's deficit at 6 percent in 2011 would be "slightly above the EU average."
As the country struggles after nearly two years of recession, the government is battling to slash a deficit from 11.2 percent of gross domestic product in 2009 to within the European Union limit of 3 percent by 2013.
After a series of austerity measures, the objective was to get it down to 9.3 percent in 2010, and Zapatero indicated the final deficit figure would be slightly better.
"I can confirm that we are going to be a little bit better than expected in the deficit reduction," Zapatero said, although he did not give a precise figure for the year.
He spoke as the Labor Ministry announced that the number of people filing claims for unemployment benefits fell in December after rising for four straight months.
The ministry said the number dropped by 10,221, the biggest reduction for December since 2000.
"Since 2004, there hasn't been a decrease in December and besides some years between 1996 and 1999, unemployment claims normally go up in December so if they go down, it's good unemployment news," Zapatero told the radio.
But the decrease left a record 4.1 million people still claiming benefits. Zapatero said he was confident there would be more job creation next year.
Spain's overall jobless number, including those whose benefits have run out, stood at 19.8 percent in the third quarter, downs slightly from the second quarter but still the worst rate in the eurozone.
Zapatero has said it will take Spain five years to repair the economic damage caused by Europe's debt crisis and the collapse of the country's key real estate sector.
The economy grew slightly in the first two quarters and was flat in the third one. The government says it expects it to grow again in the fourth quarter.
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