Spain: 59,000 Fewer Unemployed in March

T.C. | The number of registered unemployed in Spain fell by 59,149 people in March (-1.5%), its largest decline in this month since 2015, according to data published on Tuesday by the Ministry of Labour. With this drop in unemployment, which puts an end to five consecutive months of rises, the total number of unemployed stood at 3,949,640 at end-March.


The March unemployment figure, as has occurred in previous months, does not include the 743,628 workers affected by employment suspension or a reduction in working hours due to an ERTE (115,913 fewer workers than in February). The definition of registered unemployment does not count these workers as unemployed.


The Social Security system gained an average of 70,790 contributors in March compared with February (+0.4%), bringing the total number of employed people contrbuting to 18,920,902.

These unemployment figures have been revealed the day after it was made public that last year, the Public Employment Service (SEPE) only mediated in 316,000 of the contracts signed in Spain, namely 2%. The economic crisis generated by the pandemic undoubtedly affected the labour market worldwide, including in Spain. However, that 2% is a similar figure to that clocked up by SEPE in 2019, before the crisis generated by Covid 19.


In contrast, temporary employment agencies (ETTs) signed 561,000 contracts in 2020, a year in which Spain lost 622,600 jobs and unemployment rose to 16.1%. The private sector destroyed a total of 748,000 jobs in 2020, while the public sector created more than 125,000 new ones.


SEPE’s collapse is continuous and it is almost impossible to make an appointment to carry out the necessary procedures. This was compounded last Monday, 8 March, by a computer attack that blocked the website and paralysed the offices of the Public Employment Service. They had to use pen and paper to deal with citizens’ requests. Two weeks later, the service has still not been re-established. That said, the Employment Minister, Yolanda Días, assured that “no citizen is going to have delays in their payments” (of unemployment benefits). However, SEPE officials consider this to be irremediable.


Faced with the constant work overload “and the lack of material and personal means to attend to attend citizens’ needs,” the trade union USO (Unión Sindical Obrera) called a strike of the 8,748 SEPE workers on 29 and 30 March, with an estimated follow up of 30%.

The SEPE depends directly on the Ministry of Labour. Its head, Yolanda Díaz, has been chosen by the leader of the United Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, to replace him as vice-president in the coalition government with the PSOE. Political discourse and loyalty seem to outweigh management performance and results.