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MADRID: Spain’s unemployment rate fell in the second quarter of 2022, data showed on Thursday, helped by a recovery in the tourism sector and labour market reforms.

Unemployment edged down to 12.48 percent in the period from April to June from 13.65 percent in the previous three-month period, national statistics institute INE said in a statement.

The number of unemployed people fell by 255,000 in the second quarter to a total of 2.92 million, while employment rose by 383,300 people to 20.47 million, it added.

Most jobs were created in the services sector as Spain’s key tourism sector continues to rebound following the end of most pandemic travel restrictions.

The improvement in the jobless rate has also been driven by a labour market reform which came into effect on January 1 and limits the back-to-back use of temporary contracts and makes permanent contracts the rule rather than the exception.

US weekly jobless claims hit fresh 8-month high

The number of job seekers in Spain fell below three million in May for the first time since November 2008 at the start of the global financial crisis.

“Once again, the data show Spain’s recovery is advancing,” Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted after the data were released.

Economy Minister Nadia Calvino said Tuesday that the improvement in Spain’s labour market is “one of the motors” of the country’s economic growth.

She predicted Spain’s jobless rate would drop to 12.8 percent at the end of the year and to 12.0 percent in 2023.

The government on Tuesday maintained its forecast for economic growth or 4.3 percent for 2022 in anticipation of a strong tourist season, but slashed its prognosis for 2023 to 2.7 percent from 3.5 percent.

Among western economies, Spain was one of the worst-hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic, with its gross domestic product 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 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But while the jobless rate is relatively high, many employers say they are struggling to hire workers in sectors such as tourism, agriculture, construction and trucking.

To address labour shortages in these areas, the government on Tuesday reformed Spain’s existing immigration law to make it easier for employers to hire workers from outside of the European Union.

It also eases work permit requirements for workers already settled in Spain.

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