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Spain jobless rate at 18.8 percent, halting downward trend

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s unemployment rate edged up slightly to 18.8 percent in the first quarter, partly due to the end of temporary jobs tied to the winter holiday, and interrupting an overall downward trend in recent years.

National Statistics Institute said Thursday that the number of people out of work rose by 17,200 in January through March to a rounded 4.3 million. The figures contrasted with those of the fourth quarter of 2016 when the rate fell to a seven-year low of 18.6 percent.

The institute said that over the year, the unemployment rate dropped by 2.3 percentage points.

The Economy Ministry said the increase in the first quarter reflected seasonal adjustments as the period normally sees many temporary jobs in the service sector being lost after the Christmas period.

The jobless rate for people under 25 years of age in the first quarter dropped by one percentage point to 42 percent, compared with the previous three-month period.

Spain’s unemployment peaked at 27 percent in 2013 just before it began to emerge from a tough five-year financial crisis. The country still has the second-highest unemployment rate in the 28-country European Union behind Greece.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government has made reducing unemployment and boosting economic growth its main goals since taking office in 2011.

Economy Minister Luis de Guindos has said the country will create some 500,000 new jobs this year, bringing the unemployment rate below 17 percent.

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