Unemployment in Spain down by 20% in 2021

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unemployment spain

MADRID – Despite the spreading corona pandemic, 2021 was not a bad year for the Spanish labour market. Unemployment fell by 782,232 people to 3,105,905 unemployed in 2021. That is the lowest number since 2007.

Strong job growth and a reduction in unemployment is the balance of 2021. In the last 12 months, the number of people contributing to Spanish social security has increased by 776,478. That equates to a job creation rate of 4.1%, the highest level since 2005.

Registered unemployment

Registered unemployment fell by 20% in the past year to 782,232 people, bringing the total number of unemployed people registered with public employment offices to 3,105,905. This is the lowest figure this month since 2007, before the bubble burst and the years-long economic crisis began.

ERTE figures are rising again

However, the challenges posed by the pandemic persist. This also applies to the health crisis, as witnessed by the current explosion of infections due to the Omicron variant. After continued declines, the ERTE figures rose again at the end of December to a total of about 124,000 people protected by this temporary unemployment mechanism. Just over 102,000 people have been admitted to ERTE covid.

Unemployment of the self-employed

The number of self-employed workers protected by part of the benefits created for the cessation of activity before this crisis, the so-called “self-employment rate”, stood at 108,178 in December, according to Social Security figures.

Unemployment back to pre-pandemic levels

Despite the pandemic, the number of employed and unemployed is at levels before the outbreak of the coronavirus in Spain in March 2020. Already in the summer, the level of social security affiliation was already higher than before the pandemic. The unemployment rate fell below its pre-pandemic rate in November 2021. Currently, 574,682 more workers can apply for social security than in February 2020, and 140,142 fewer unemployed. In this way, rapid recovery of employment has been achieved.

In contrast with financial crisis

This contrasts with the experience of the recent economic crisis. Although the coronavirus crisis and the major economic crisis are very different, the government points out that after the financial crisis, Spain took years to restore employment, while it has now been done within a few months.


One of the fundamental components of this rapid recovery was the ERTE. This is a flexible tool through which companies have been able to temporarily (fully or partially) suspend their employees while receiving state aid. This way they do not need to fire their employees. This scheme to prevent unemployment is extended until March 2022.

19,824,911 members of social security

The total number of employees affiliated with Social Security reached an average of 19,824,911 in December, after an increase of 72,553 in the past month. This number represents a new maximum of workers in the social security system. Every month the number increases thanks to the continued recovery of employment. 

December is usually a good month for employment. This is mainly due to the Christmas period and the olive season in agriculture. Employment then rises and unemployment falls. This has also happened this year with an average of 72,553 more employees and 76,782 fewer unemployed compared to November.

Unemployment by sector

The sectors that recorded the largest increase in employment compared to the same month last year are the hospitality industry (17.77%), artistic, recreational, and entertainment activities (16.24%), information and communication (8.78%), and scientific and technical professional activities (6.84%).

Unemployment by region

Over the past 12 months, employment has increased in all Autonomous Communities. The increase in the number of social security members in the Canary Islands (6.43%), the Balearic Islands with 5.52%, and the Community of Madrid (4.97%).


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