MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish unemployment fell in the fourth quarter to its lowest level since the start of the 2008 financial crisis, data showed on Thursday, as hiring in the agriculture and services sectors increased. led to a faster-than-expected rebound in coronavirus-related layoffs.
The rate fell to 13.33% from 14.57% in the previous quarter, a drop that Economy Minister Nadia Calvino described as “spectacular” and comfortably below the 14.20% expected by economists polled by Reuters.
The highly seasonal reading from the National Statistics Institute (INE) was the lowest since the third quarter of 2008, when it stood at 11.23%, and the lowest for a fourth quarter since 8, 57% of 2007.
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Some 153,900 jobs were added, mostly in agriculture and services, the data showed. In 2021, Spain created around 840,000 new jobs, mainly due to increased hiring in service industries.
Since peaking at 16.26% in the third quarter of 2020, when Spain was reeling from the devastating first wave of COVID-19, unemployment has fallen for five consecutive quarters.
The arrival of the highly contagious but less virulent variant of Omicron sent cases soaring to record highs in December, leading to a spike in sick leave absences.
But a light-hearted government response, which refused to reintroduce restrictions on movement and business activity, meant any structural impact on jobs was limited.
Thursday’s INE reading did not include the roughly 100,000 workers still on the government’s furlough scheme at the end of last year.