Spain’s economy growth jumps in first quarter

Spain's economy growth jumps in first quarter
Photo: AFP
Spain's economy growth accelerated in the first quarter of 2015, provisional official data showed on Thursday, in a fresh sign that the nation's recovery is gathering momentum even though unemployment remains high.

Economic output expanded by 0.9 percent in the January-March period on a quarterly basis, up from 0.7 percent in the previous quarter, according to provisional figures from the National Statistics Institute.

It was the seventh consecutive time that Spain was posting quarterly growth.

On an annual basis the Spanish economy, the eurozone's fourth-largest, grew by 2.6 per cent in the first quarter, up from 2.0 per cent in the previous three month period.

Spain expanded by 1.4 percent in 2014 — its first full-year of growth since a property bubble burst in 2008, throwing millions of people out of work – due to increased consumer spending and business investment.

Like many of its eurozone partners, the country has also benefited from sliding oil prices as well as a weaker euro which has helped boost exports.

"The Spanish recovery is now moving onto a higher plane, elevated by a supportive external environment, namely lower crude oil prices and the recent slide in the euro," said Raj Badiani, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday said the government expects the country's economy to expand by 2.9 percent this year, up from a previous estimate of 2.4 percent growth.

The ruling conservative Popular Party hopes the recovery can stem its plunging popularity in time for municipal and regional elections on May 24 and a parliamentary election slated for the end of the year.

But the unemployment rate remains high – it stood at 23.8 percent in the first quarter, the highest level in the European Union after Greece's – and is expected to remain high.

The International Labour Organization expects Spain's jobless rate to remain above 20 percent until the end of the decade.

Spain's unemployment rate was at 8.57 percent in 2007 at the height of the property boom, its lowest annual level since the country returned to democracy following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

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