MADRID (Reuters) — A busy Christmas season in Spain helped boost registered employment in December, data showed, though the country's jobless rate remains one of the highest in Europe.
The number registered as jobless fell by 1.34 per cent month on month, or by 55,790 people, according to Tuesday's Labour Ministry figures.
That reflected higher spending over the festive period by Spaniards, many of whom have seen their purchasing power grow during an economic recovery that has gathered pace since the country exited recession in the third quarter of 2013.
Some 61,336 fewer people signed on as jobless in the service sector, which includes shops, restaurants and hotels, the data showed. Unemployment also fell in the agriculture sector, but rose in construction and industry.
Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has been quick to claim credit for job creation in the last two years, with figures on Tuesday showing over half a million joined the workforce in 2015.
The aim now was to create two million more jobs in the next four years, he said in a radio interview on Tuesday, reiterating a target set during his term in government.
For now, the overall employment picture in Spain remains gloomy.
In seasonally adjusted terms, registered jobless fell by just 1,258 people in December, and some 4.09 million were out of work.
The Spanish quarterly unemployment rate, taken from a wide survey conducted by the national statistics institute, was 21.2 per cent in the third quarter, the second highest in the European Union after Greece.
That is well below the high of nearly 27 per cent hit at the beginning of 2013, but further still from the figure of just under 8 percent reached before the economic crisis began in 2007.
Rajoy's centre-right People's Party gained the most votes in parliamentary elections on Dec. 20 but fell well short of a majority, while left-wing parties also failed to win a clear mandate to govern.
The political stalemate has cast a pall over a reform programme that has helped fuel the economic recovery.
The number of people paying in to the social security system rose by 85,314 workers, or 0.5 per cent, from November, to 17.3 million, the Labour Ministry said.