April 28, 2020 / 7:03 AM / a month ago

Spain's unemployment rises to 14.4% in first quarter

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s unemployment rate rose to 14.4% in the first quarter of the year, data from the National Statistics Institute showed on Tuesday, as a result of the lockdown imposed in mid-March to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

The jobless rate in the first quarter compared with 13.8% in the fourth quarter of 2019 and a forecast of 15.6% by economists polled by Reuters.

The data released on Tuesday is only partial as the country went into lockdown only two weeks before the end of the quarter and most of the household survey on which the indicator is based had already been carried out, the statistics institute said.

Spain, which has the world’s third-highest death toll from the disease after the United States and Italy, has banned most outings since March 14.

The survey only reflected a loss of job destruction of 285,600 jobs in the quarter, whereas according to data from the Social Security register almost 900,000 jobs were lost in March alone.

The social security data showed in early April that 898,822 Spaniards had lost their jobs since the start of the lockdown, including around 550,000 temporary workers. The tourism and construction sectors were the hardest hit.

Spain has a historically high unemployment rate compared to its neighbours. The rate peaked at almost 27% in the wake of the financial crisis in 2013 and remained above 13% in late 2019 even after years of strong growth.

According to forecasts by the Bank of Spain, the coronavirus crisis could push the unemployment rate up to 21.7% this year, with the economy contracting as much as 12.4%.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in headline.)

Reporting by Belen Carreno, Aida Pelaez-Fernandez and Inti Landauro; Editing by Catherine Evans

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