1 May 2010

Spanish unemployment rate soars past 20%

4:01 pm on 1 May 2010

The unemployment rate in Spain has risen to its highest since 1997 - more than 20%.

There were 4,612,700 people unemployed in the country at the end of March, according to the national statistics agency, INE.

Spain's jobless rate has risen sharply during the economic downturn and is now the highest in the eurozone. The whole zone's official

unemployment rate remained unchanged at 10% in March.

That equates to 15.8 million people. In the wider EU, the jobless rate was 9.6%, with 23.1 millon unemployed.

Germany was the only country where the jobless rate fell - from 7.4% to 7.3%.

The BBc reports that earlier this week the credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Spanish government debt over fears for the country's economic outlook.

The Spanish economy shrank by 0.1% in the final three months of 2009. For the whole year, it shrank by 3.6%.