4 million and counting

Spain's jobless rate soars to 17%

Spain's unemployment rate hit 17.4% at the end of March, figures have shown, with the jobless total now having doubled over the past 12 months.

In the past year, two million people have lost their jobs taking the total out of work to just over four million.

The Bank of Spain recently predicted the jobless rate would reach 19.4% in 2010, as the recession took hold.

"It is a terrible figure," Octavio Granado, secretary of state for social security told state television.

He said the first quarter of any year was traditionally bad for employment in Spain.

Mr Granado also said that 2009 was expected to be the worst part of the economic downturn.

"So we are in the epicentre of the crisis. We are in the eye of the perfect storm," he said.

The National Statistics Institute said Spain's jobless rate at the end of the first quarter was up 3.45 percentage points from the end of 2008.

The BBC's Steve Kingstone in Madrid says the country has become used to grim unemployment data, but Friday's figures are especially shocking.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will hope that the government's 70bn-euro ($92bn; £63bn) stimulus package will now create new jobs - above all in public works projects due to begin this month, our correspondent says.

But critics say deeper reforms of the labour market are needed - to eliminate red tape, and reduce the costs of hiring and firing* permanent staff, he adds.

Under the current rules, many employers prefer to offer temporary contracts to staff who are then let go at the first sign of trouble.

Source: BBC News

Spotlight on Vocabulary:

If a company hires someone, it gives that person a job. When it fires them, the employee loses their job; often because they do something wrong.
  • I've heard that my office need to hire a technician; you should apply.
  • Real Madrid have been losing too many matches. They should fire the coach.

Similar expressions:

  • The car factory is having severe financial problems; they are going to start to lay off some staff soon. ( if you are laid off, you lose your job because the company is having financial difficulties)
  • He was made redundant at the age of 50 and so it is difficult for him to find a new job. (if a company makes you redundant, you lose your job because it is having financial problems)
  • He got the sack because he was always turning up late. (he was sacked means he lost his job, probably for doing something wrong)
  • Telefonica are taking on 100 new employees. ( they are recruiting or giving work to people)