The number of people in Spain filing claims for unemployment benefits dropped in April by about 64,000 in the first decline this year, the government said Wednesday as it reported a bit of good news for a country struggling to recover from recession.
The Labor and Immigration Ministry said the fall left the total number of people receiving benefits at just shy of 4.27 million. The drop was the first since December and will be welcome news to a government trying to ward off intermittent fears Spain will be Europe's next bailout victim following Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
Spain's actual unemployment rate is released separately every quarter. As of the end of March it stood at a eurozone high of 21.3 percent, with more than 4.9 million people out of work. The claims number differs because many people's jobless benefits have run out.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero welcomed Wednesday's decline in unemployment claims and said it suggested Spain will in fact achieve net creation of jobs in the second half of 2011, as his government has repeatedly stated.
The decline in jobless claims in April was attributed in part to hiring at holiday resorts for the Easter Week vacation in Spain, and the government is looking to summer vacation hiring in this tourist haven country to chip away at the unemployment rate.
Still, it is forecasting GDP growth of just 1.3 percent for the year. Many analysts and even the IMF call that overly optimistic.
The labor ministry said April's fall in joblessness claims covered all sectors of the economy and was the biggest in the month of April since 2006. But since April 2010, claims have risen 3 percent, or by 127,000 people.
Zapatero's government has expressed confidence the number of unemployed will not hit the psychological barrier of five million.
General elections must be held by March 2012, and Zapatero's Socialists are trailing conservatives badly in the polls. Zapatero has said he will not seek a third term in office.