Spain posts record drop in summer unemployment as tourists return

Spain posts record drop in summer unemployment as tourists return
A guide leads tourists from their cruise ship to the streets of Palma de Mallorca. Photo: JAIME REINA / AFP
Spain on Thursday posted a record drop in jobless figures in August as the labour market was buoyed by the recovery of the tourism sector thanks to a relaxation of pandemic restrictions.

The number of people registering as jobless fell by 82,583, or 2.42 percent, from July, the sixth consecutive monthly decline and the sharpest reduction in the month of August since the statistical series began in 1996, the labour ministry said.

The total number of unemployed stood at 3,333,915 million people.

“This is great news, which confirms that we have overcome the worst of the crisis,” Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz tweeted, adding the government must now “ensure that the recovery is fair and balanced”.

While employment rose across all sectors except for construction, the bulk of those who found a job, 46,224, work in the service sector which is dominated by tourism.

The arrival of foreign tourists to Spain jumped by 78.3 percent in July over the same time last year to 4.4 million, although the numbers remain far from the levels reached in the same month in 2019 before the pandemic.

Official figures for the month of August are not yet available but several sector leaders have said there was a sustained recovery in tourism activity as Spanish holidaymakers made up for the absence of foreign visitors.

The Spanish government has said it was hoping to attract around 45 million tourist visits this year, approximately half the figure for 2019.

Before the pandemic hit in spring 2020, Spain was the world’s second-most popular tourist destination after France, and the sector accounted for around 12 percent of the economy.

Spain’s unemployment rate fell in the second quarter to 15.3 percent from 15.9 percent in the first quarter, according to National Institute of Statistics, which uses a survey method that catches people who are not registered for unemployment benefits.

The Spanish economy contracted by 10.8 percent in 2020, one of the worst results among industrialised countries, but it returned to growth in the second quarter this year.

The government expects growth of 6.5 percent this year overall.

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