According to figures released last Thursday, unemployment in Spain fell to its lowest level in four years. This figure could increase the chances for Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to win the general election, as unemployment is currently a hot topic for discussion in the country. The rate fell from 22.4% in the previous quarter to 21.2%, bringing the number of people without work down to 4.85 million, which is the lowest it has been since mid-2011. At the peak of the economic crisis during this time, unemployment reached a record of nearly 27%.
Spain has been outpacing other nations within the European Union in regards to economic growth and job creation; however, its unemployment rate is second only to Greece’s and is also two times the trade bloc’s average. The timing of the release of improving unemployment rates is favorable for the current government, but according to Sandalio Gomez, a professor at the IESE Business School in Spain, “There are still plenty of negative aspects in our economy, and I’m sure opposition politicians will want to highlight those.” Lately, there has been a debate focused upon whether the quality of the jobs created in the country is authentic. Opposition parties have campaigned to highlight reports showing rising poverty levels and widening income inequality to damage the reputation of the government and its plan to overhaul the labor market.
Even though joblessness has fallen, the labor market in Spain has actually contracted; temporary contracts now account for a quarter of all jobs, and there are many Spaniards without jobs, particularly in the construction industry. Unfortunately, two-thirds of Spain’s employment increase in the third quarter can be attributed to jobs involving temporary contracts. The third-quarter unemployment data also specified the seasonal nature of the labor market, especially during the summer when tourism in the country peaks. There were an estimated 54.4 million visitors in 9 months, which is 2 million more than the previous year.
There are no parties currently dominating the campaign or expected to win a majority in December. In fact, due to the fragmentation of Spanish politics, there are two new strong parties: Podemos and Citizens. Rajoy hopes to follow the lead of other conservative figures in countries such as Britain and Portugal by convincing voters that his administration has helped to put the economy onto a course of recovery following the lengthy recession, steep public spending cuts, and a European banking bailout in 2012. Still, in order for voters to be convinced, he will have to prove that the improvements made are not just temporary.