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MADRID: The number of jobseekers in Spain fell below three million in May for the first time in 15 years thanks to an increase in job creation, government figures showed Thursday.

By the end of May, 2.92 million people were officially looking for work, labour ministry figures showed – with the monthly figure falling by 99,512 from the previous month, or 3.3 percent.

“This is the lowest figure since November 2008 at the start of the (global) financial crisis,” a ministry statement said, noting the improvement had taken place despite “a context of major international uncertainty” largely due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Compared with the same month in 2021, the number of jobseekers fell by 22.7 percent, or by 858,259, it said.

“Stable, quality employment is growing, permanent contracts are increasing and women and young people are in a better situation. We are moving forward with equal opportunities and social justice,” tweeted Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The change came about due to a significant increase in jobs, many with permanent contracts, with 730,427 signed in May, the highest monthly figure ever recorded.

Unemployment has notably dropped among the under 25s, falling by 9.9 percent, and to a lesser extent among women, down 2.65 percent.

These results come after Sanchez’s left-wing government approved a flagship labour reform aimed at reducing insecurity in Spain’s labour market, which has the highest number of temporary contracts in Europe.

The new text amends legislation originally passed in 2012 by the right-wing Popular Party in a bid to revive the economy following the 2008 global financial crisis.

The reform, which took effect on January 1, limits the back-to-back use of temporary contracts and makes permanent contracts the rule rather than the exception. It also limits the use of subcontractors.

Among western economies, Spain was one of the worst-hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic, with its GDP collapsing by 10.8 percent in 2020, largely due to its heavy dependence on tourism.

Some half a million people lost their jobs in 2020 in Spain, which has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the OECD.

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