Spain's unemployment rate jumped in the first quarter of this year to 21.3 per cent, a Eurozone record and the country's highest level since 1997, with more than 4.9 million people now out of work.
"This data is very negative and grave," said labour minister Valeriano Gomez yesterday.
The government has tried an put a semblance of positive spin on the figures by suggesting that the true figures may actually be less than this. The notion is that there are a significant number of people are employed on the black market, an issue that the government wants to investigate and stamp out.
The hardest hit group are the young. Between January and March, 90% of the 256,500 people who lost their jobs were under 35 years. Youth unemployment now stands at 860,000 or 45%. In four of the communities (Andalusia, Canary Islands, Valencia and Extremadura) more than half the population under 25 years are unemployed.
None of this bodes well for the recovery of the country. The hope is that unemployment will now have peaked but the expectation is that it will not fall significantly until at least 2012.