MADRID (AP) — Spain's unemployment rate edged down to a seven-year low of 18.6 percent at the end of 2016, the National Statistics Institute said Thursday.
The number of people out of work fell by 83,000 in the October-December period, to 4.2 million. Over the year, the unemployment rate dropped by 2.3 percentage points, the institute said.
The jobless rate for people under 25 years of age remained at a high 43 percent, down from 46 percent at the end of 2015.
Despite recent improvements, Spain still has the second-highest unemployment rate in the 28-country European Union behind Greece.
The conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has made reducing unemployment and boosting economic growth its main goals since taking office in 2011.
Speaking on Onda Cero radio, Rajoy said Spain had created 1.75 million jobs since 2013. He said that at the current rate of creating some 450,000 jobs a year, Spain is on track to have a pledged 20 million people employed in 2020, up from 18.5 million at the end of 2016.
Spain's unemployment peaked at 27 percent in 2013 just before it began to emerge from a severe five-year financial crisis.
"There's a lot to be done but five consecutive years of crisis can't be resolved in a quarter of an hour," Rajoy said.
Institute figures due next week are expected to show that Spain's economy grew by 3.2 percent in 2016, making it one of the fastest growing in the EU.