MADRID (AP) — Spain's unemployment rate dropped further in the third-quarter, official figures showed Thursday, in a development the conservative government will be hoping will help secure a victory in December's general election.
The National Statistics Institute said the jobless rate improved to 21.2 percent from 22.4 percent in the previous three-month period.
The number of people out of work dropped by 298,200 between July and September to a rounded total of 4.9 million. It was the first time the total has dropped below 5 million since the fourth quarter of 2011.
"It's positive and encouraging news but shows that there is still a lot to be done," said Economy Minister Luis de Guindos. He pointed out that the total number had dropped by 576,900 over the past 12 months, the biggest decrease for such a period since records began.
The government has promised 600,000 jobs will be created in 2015.
The statistics institute said the jobless rate for people under 25 years of age edged down to 46.6 percent from 49.2 percent in the second quarter.
Unemployment rocketed in Spain after the 2008 global financial crisis but the economy started growing solidly last year.
The country is now the European Union's leading job-creator, although its unemployment rate is the second highest in the 28-country bloc after Greece.
The jobless rate at the end of 2011, when the Popular Party took office, was 23.4 percent.
The ruling Popular Party is hoping the recovery will boost its fortunes at Dec. 20's election. Opinion polls indicate the party is almost tied with the leading opposition Socialist party and will lose its absolute majority.