Spain's jobless level hits record 4.75 million

Protesters in Puerta del Sol, Madrid, 29 March
Image caption Unions organised a general strike on 29 March to protest against labour market reform

The number of Spanish jobseekers rose for the eighth month in a row in March to hit a record 4.75 million.

The Labour Ministry said the number of people filing for unemployment benefits rose by 38,769 with the services sector seeing the most jobs lost.

The jobless rate in Spain stood at 23.6% in February, according to EU figures released on Monday.

Meanwhile, Spain has said its public debt will leap more than 10 percentage points this year to 79.8% of GDP.

'Recovering confidence'

The Finance Ministry said: "Public debt will rise from 68.5% of GDP at the end of 2011 to 79.8%, a level which is still below the eurozone average of 90.4%."

It comes as Budget Minister Cristobal Montoro presented his government's 2012 budget to parliament.

The package, which was approved by the cabinet on Friday, includes 27bn euros' ($36bn; £22.5bn) worth of spending cuts and tax increases.

"We are convinced that this budget will meet the challenge of recovering the confidence of our European partners," Mr Montoro told a news conference held in parliament.

The European Union has set a ceiling for public debt of 60% of gross domestic product.

'Unsatisfactory situation'

The unemployment figures released on Tuesday show that the situation is worse for young Spaniards, as youth unemployment is running at 50%.

Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union and it is expected to rise further this year.

The government hopes that reform to the labour market will help ease the problem.

Its measures include cutting back on severance pay and restricting inflation-linked salary increases.

But those measures have angered unions, who organised a general strike last Thursday.

Secretary of State for Employment Engracia Hidalgo said in a statement: "We continue to face an unsatisfactory situation of an increase in the number of people registered as unemployed.

"This is why it is necessary to reiterate the importance of creating confidence and flexibility for companies, as was done with the labour law reform."

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