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MADRID: Spain’s jobless rate unexpectedly edged lower in the fourth quarter, data showed on Thursday, giving more credibility to the government’s forecast that the economy kept recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the quarter.

The National Statistics Institute (INE) said the rate stood at 16.13% in October-December, down from 16.26% three months earlier, but still much higher than 13.78% a year ago as the country’s economic activity remained hindered by restrictions.

For all of last year, unemployment jumped to an average of 15.53% from 14.1% in 2019.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast quarterly unemployment at 16.6%.

Employment increased in all sectors in the quarter, led by services, the INE said. The number of those without a job fell by 3,100 to around 3.72 million, while those employed rose 0.87% to 19.34 million.

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