A construction worker. / SUR

Jobless rate in Malaga province drops by two points on last year but it is still high at 20 per cent

The quarterly active-population report from central government shows numbers in work almost back to pre-Covid-19 levels

N. TRIGUERO / L. PALACIOS MALAGA / MADRID.

The local labour market for Malaga province - including the Costa del Sol - is continuing to recover from the disastrous effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not only are more new jobs being created but also the percentage of unemployed is falling slightly, which is an achievement given that there has also been a rise in the number of people available locally wanting work.

Last week central government published the employment data for January to March this year in its quarterly Economically Active Population Survey (or EPA - Encuesta de Población Activa). This showed that just over 20 per cent of people available to work in Malaga province were out of work. This compares to a national average of some 13 per cent.

This Spanish EPA survey published every three months is used by the EU to compare unemployment with other countries and is seen as more reliable than the monthly data from the Spanish Social Security department as the latter excludes people not registered as looking for work.

More people looking for work

Despite the first three months of the year being traditionally bad for employment - after the Christmas season and before the start of the peak tourist months and this year with the effects of the war in Ukraine on the economy - there were 33,100 more people in work in Malaga province than a year earlier. This brought the total number in work locally almost back to pre-pandemic levels at 643,500.

However, 19,400 more people joined the labour market in a year - those in work or available to work - bringing the figure to 806,100. Therefore, the net effect is that the province has 14,000 fewer unemployed than a year ago and 162,500 people unoccupied. This is equivalent to 20.16 per cent out of work - a two-point drop on a year ago. Cadiz is the only other province in the Andalucía region that has over 20 per cent out of work.

The sector of the economy with the biggest increase in work in Malaga province in the last year was the building industry. The service sector increased only slightly and the agriculture sector stayed the same.

The national picture

On a national level, the story was not as positive. In a normally bleak first quarter for employment figures in Spain, the early effects of inflation and the war in Ukraine combined with Easter falling later to see a net increase in unemployment across the country of 70,900. This ended a run of five quarterly EPA reports where figures had been dropping.

The number of unemployed in Spain was 3,174,700 at the end of March, according to the data - equivalent to 13.65 per cent of the workforce.

In Andalucía, unemployment fell by 112,100 compared to January to March 2021. This was the region with the biggest fall nationally.

The average unemployment rate in Andalucía is the fourth highest of any Spanish region at 19.43 per cent.

Spain does worst out of Euro countries on its unemployment stats

Countries in the Eurozone reached their lowest level of unemployment in at least the last 24 years at the end of March, with 6.8% on average. This was despite the harsh economic conditions of the last two years during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But this is not the case for Spain, which, despite being at below pre-coronavirus levels, is still double the Eurozone average at 13.5% and a long way off the lowest ever recorded in the country in 2007 of 8%. Spain's rate is the highest in Europe.

Youth employment is also a big issue. The Eurozone average for those under 25 out of work is 13.9%, whereas Spain is at 29.6%, slightly more than Greece and Italy.

The situation in Malaga is worse than the national average, an embarrassing situation for a province that aims to be the economic driver of the Andalucía region. The lowest figures were in 2007. Back then, 75,000 people were out of work. Now, in 2022, there are the same number of people in work in Malaga province as then, (643,000), but more than double those out of work (162,000), according to the EPA survey.

Why is this? The local business association head, Javier González de Lara, calls the case of Malaga the "great paradox", as the area is attractive for new migrants: as much new work as it creates, there is never enough to satisfy job demand.

It is worth pointing out more uncomfortable reasons for politicians: causes linked to the economy's structure, which depends heavily on tourism and less on industry, and where a large number of unemployed do not have the right skills.