The contrasting fortunes of national economies in Europe became apparent again Tuesday, with debt-ridden Spain reporting a 15-year high in the number of unemployed workers and robust Germany a two-decade low.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s new conservative government in Spain has embarked on an austerity plan to trim its deficit spending, but its economy remains stalled. The Madrid government reported that the number of jobless workers increased in December for the fifth straight month, to more than 4.4 million. More than 21 percent of Spanish workers are unemployed.
Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said that unemployment is the country’s most pressing problem.
Germany’s labor agency chief, Frank-Juergen Weise, said the demand for workers was high throughout 2011. One analyst noted that the unemployment rate has dropped in 29 of the last 32 months.
But Germany’s export-driven economy could be weaker this year. The effects of the European government debt crisis and sluggish economic growth in major economies elsewhere could limit demand for German products.