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Spain's unemployment rate tops 26%

January 24, 2013|By Alana Semuels

During the bleakest days of the Great Depression, when Americans waited in bread lines and the nation’s future looked grim, the unemployment rate peaked at about 25%.

Spain has now topped that figure, one of the highest in the developed world, as unemployment in the European county reached 26.02% in the fourth quarter of 2012. There are 5.9 million people out of work in the country.

Spain shed 363,000 jobs in the fourth quarter as the government implemented austerity measures to satisfy bond holders. Investors are more confident in Spain’s economy now, but that hasn’t meant much for those out of work. Young people have been especially affected, with 100,000 fewer people age 20-24 employed, according to statistics released by Spain’s National Office of Statistics.

Spain’s unemployment rate is double that of the rest of the Eurozone nations. The country’s weak economy has caused an exodus of both Spaniards and foreigners moving to other European countries and the United States in search of a more stable economy. About 70% more people left Spain in 2011 than in 2010, statistics show.

The nation has lost 850,000 jobs over the last year. Unemployment is especially rampant in the south part of the county, which had flourished from a housing boom beginning a decade ago.

The Spanish government has started developing strategies to entice people to buy up those surplus homes. Last year, it said it was considering offering residency to foreigners who bought property worth $200,000 or more. That could be an easy sell for people with cash on hand: A three-bedroom in Alicante, on the Mediterranean, costs just $130,000.

There are an estimated 700,000 vacant homes in Spain.

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