Spain: jobless claims soared 95,000 last month

October 4, 2011 - 7:15 AM

MADRID (AP) — The number of people filing for unemployment benefits in Spain shot up by nearly 100,000 in September, a surprisingly big increase even in a month that tends to be bad for workers as vacation season contracts expire.

Tuesday's figures from the Labor Department are likely to stoke renewed worries over the Spanish economy at a time the government is trying to appease investors fretting over its strategy to deal with hefty borrowings.

The department blamed the anemic state of Spain's economy and the effect of austerity measures on the job market for the bigger than usual increase in September claims. It added that government's forecast that 2011 would end with net job creation, albeit small, will probably be wrong.

The official forecast is for GDP growth of 1.3 percent for 2011, but hardly anyone believes that anymore.

The department acknowledged the jobless claims increase was disturbing, as it was nearly twice as big as the increase posted in September 2010.

Deputy Labor Minister Mari Luz Rodriguez said that in recent weeks the ministry had seen daily increases of 10,000 in claims for jobless benefits, and called the numbers "tough and negative."

The Labor Department says the increase of 95,817 raises the total to 4,226,744. That's an increase of 2.32 percent from August. It was also the biggest jump for a September since the department's current accounting system was launched in 1996.

Spain's overall jobless rate is released separately and quarterly and stands at just under 21 percent, a eurozone high.

The governing Socialists have called general elections for Nov. 20 but polls suggest they will be defeated by the conservative opposition Popular Party, which might even win an absolute majority in Parliament.

Government cost-cutting measures are meeting with resistance, most lately among school teachers.

Madrid-area secondary school teachers — at schools for kids ranging in 12 to 18 — went on strike Tuesday for the fourth time since the school year began last month to protest job cuts ordered by the conservative regional government.

In Spain, education is run at the regional level, and Madrid and others run by the Popular Party, are having teachers spend more hours in the classroom this year. That means less hiring of stand-by teachers who do not have civil servant status of full-blown teachers.

Teachers unions say students are the ones who come out losing most: smaller teaching staffs mean fewer extracurricular activities and tutoring sessions and the like. Another stoppage was scheduled for Tuesday, then again on Oct. 20.

The labor union UGT said about 70 percent of the Madrid area's roughly 20,000 secondary schools honored Tuesday's strike.