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Spain endures unemployment woes as jobless total hits 4.2 million

Spain experiences worst September increase in registered unemployed in 15 years

Further gloom spread across Spain on Tuesday as it experienced its worst September increase in registered unemployment for at least 15 years to reach 4.2 million people.

The sudden pickup in the rhythm at which Spaniards have been signing on at unemployment offices was a further blow to a country that already has Europe’s worst jobless rate of 21%. The latest surge was blamed on a number of public sector layoffs as Spain bowed to deficit control demands and regional governments sacked teachers and health workers.

Regional governments account for a third of public spending and are responsible for health, education and other services. With Spain’s sovereign debt under pressure on the markets, however, they have been ordered to help rein in last year’s 9.2% budget deficit. Cuts in public service workforces have swept the country, with populous Catalonia, for example, cutting its budget by 10% this year.

Although many of September’s newly unemployed had finished seasonal tourism jobs, at least one in six were regional and municipal workers from health, education or social services, according to employment secretary Mari Luz Rodríguez.

More alarming still was a drop of 65,000 health, education and other public sector workers contributing social security payments – with the number of teachers at the beginning of the school year dropping for the first time in recent memory, according to officials.

Spain is just about on target to meet its 6% deficit target this year, though economic growth is grinding to a halt and tax receipts are lower than projected. The jobs pain, which has left 46% of non-students under the age of 25 out of work, is unlikely to go away soon. Next year’s deficit target drops to 4.4% and the regional government of Castilla La Mancha, for example, has already pledged to cut spending by 20%.

Town halls, meanwhile, are also laying-off workers as some struggle to pay wages and others, such as Albacete in the south-west, are forced to close sports centres or other amenities because electricity has been cut off.

Eight out of 10 Spaniards see unemployment as the country’s biggest problem but only 17% believe see economy improving over the coming year, according to a poll released on Wednesday by the Centre for Social Investigation.

Spain has a general election on 20 November, when the conservative People’s Party of Mariano Rajoy is set to defeat the socialists of prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Rajoy is expected to be an even greater deficit hawk. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds