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Spanish Unemployment Tops 20%, Hurting Deficit Fight

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Flashback: Spain’s experience with the ‘green’ economy: Save the planet, lose some jobs

Emma Ross-Thomas

April 30, 2010

Spain’s unemployment rate rose above 20 percent for the first time in more than a decade, undermining Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s fight to cut the euro region’s third-largest budget deficit.

The jobless rate rose to 20.1 percent in the first quarter from 18.8 percent in the previous three months, the Madrid-based National Statistics Institute said today. The rate is above a median forecast of 19.8 percent in a Bloomberg News survey of 10 economists. Spanish unemployment is the highest in the euro region and double the average rate in the European Union, according to separate data from the EU’s statistics office.

Spanish borrowing costs have surged in the past two weeks on concern the country will struggle to push the deficit below the EU limit of 3 percent of economic output. Standard & Poor’s cut Spain’s credit rating on April 28, saying the government was underestimating its fiscal problems and overestimating growth prospects. Adding to public spending, Zapatero has extended benefits for the long-term unemployed.

“The government’s scenario is a bit more optimistic than what we’re seeing, so the welfare costs for the unemployed are going to be higher,” said Jesus Castillo, an economist at Natixis in Paris. “If they don’t take new measures the 3 percent deficit target is not going to be met.”

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This article was posted: Friday, April 30, 2010 at 4:39 am

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