Madrid, April 26 (IANS/EFE) Spain’s unemployment rate hit 27.16 percent in the first quarter of this year, with the number of jobless people topping 6 million for the first time amid an economic downturn that started in 2008, the National Statistics Institute, or INE, said.
More than 6.2 million people were jobless during the period, with 237,400 workers joining the ranks of the unemployed during the first three months of 2013, the INE said Thursday in its Labor Force Survey.
People younger than 25 were hit the hardest, with the unemployment rate for this segment of the labor force coming in at 57.22 percent in the first quarter, representing 960,400 people.
Foreigners were the second worst-hit group, with the jobless rate for this segment at 39.21 percent and 1.3 million people out of work, the INE said.
The high level of joblessness among foreigners is prompting some emigrants to return to their home countries, with some groups, such as Ecuadorians, taking advantage of repatriation plans created by the governments of their nations.
Spain’s work force lost 322,300 workers between January and March, with 16.6 million people employed and the labor force participation rate at 59.68 percent, the INE said.
The high unemployment rate is an indicator of the severe economic recession that Spain entered in 2008 and has been affected by the austerity measures implemented by the government to reduce the budget deficit.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government approved labor reforms in 2012 aimed at spurring job creation, but the measures have not yet yielded results.
The government plans to implement new measures Friday to boost the economy, which the Bank of Spain estimated contracted 0.50 percent in the first quarter, an improvement from the 0.80 percent drop in gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2012.