Spanish registered unemployment dips in March

The lines of job seekers at Spain's unemployment offices shrank slightly in March but their numbers still surpassed five million in the midst of recession and state spending cuts, government figures showed Tuesday.

The number of people registered as unemployed fell by 4,979 or 0.1 percent from the previous month to 5,035,243, but was up by 5.99 percent or 284,376 people from March 2012, the Labour Ministry said in a statement.

The dip followed two months of growth in registered unemployment, which topped five million for the first time in February as Spain struggled with the fallout from the collapse of a decade-long property boom in 2008.

The number of people registering as being out of work in March fell in the services sector but was up in construction, agriculture and industry.

After smoothing out seasonal blips, the number of registered unemployed in March stood at 4,857,929 -- 6,212 fewer than in the previous month.

A broader, quarterly household survey by the National Statistics Institute provides the official unemployment rate, which hit 26.02 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, a record high since the re-birth of Spanish democracy after the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government had predicted the economy will contract by 0.5 percent this year and grow by 1.2 percent in 2014 but last month it said it would have to revise its forecast.

It has imposed steep spending cuts and tax rises, aimed at saving 150 billion euros ($194 billion) between 2012 and 2014, measures that have prompted mass street protests and added to job losses.