Madrid, April 28 (IANS/EFE) The ranks of Spain's unemployed expanded by nearly 366,000 in the first quarter to a record 5.63 million, or 24.44 percent of the workforce, the government said Friday.
The number of households in which all members are out of work climbed by 374,300 to more than 1.7 million, according to the results of the latest workforce survey.
The government expects the unemployment rate to peak this year at 25 percent, the Secretary of State for the economy, Fernando Jimenez Latorre, said after the jobless figures were released.
Spain's Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, told RNE radio the unemployment data show the country is in a crisis of "enormous magnitude" and he urged the European Union to do more to promote economic growth.
"If it goes badly for us, it goes badly for them," he said. "This is like the Titanic: if there is a sinking here, even the first-class passengers sink."
Almost half of Spaniards between the ages of 18 and 24 are unemployed and the latest survey points to a fall in employment in the 25-29 age group.
Spanish unemployment is more than twice the median rate for the 27-member EU.
Spain's gross domestic product shrank 0.4 percent in the first three months of this year after contracting 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, the central bank said Monday.
Two consecutive quarters of negative growth is the technical definition of recession.
Friday's unemployment report was the first since Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government overhauled Spanish labour law to make it easier for firms to hire and fire workers, hoping to spur job creation.
The government has always said it did not expect the overhaul to have an immediate effect on the jobless rate, Jimenez Latorre noted Friday.
The 2012-2015 Stability Program approved at Friday's Cabinet meeting envisions growth of 0.2 percent in 2013 and an easing of the unemployment rate to 24.2 percent, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said at a press conference.
He also reiterated the Rajoy administration's commitment to reducing the budget deficit from 8.5 percent of GDP to 5.3 percent this year and to 3 percent of GDP in 2013.
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