Unemployment Spain at lowest point since 2008

by Lorraine Williamson
unemployment figures

Unemployment in Spain fell by 49,260 people in May, with the total number of people covered by social security rising to 20.8 million. The decline was mainly driven by employment in hospitality, although fewer new people were hired in May.  

According to data published Friday by Spain’s employment ministry, 200,411 jobs were added in Spain last month. An increase that lifted the total number of social security affiliated workers to a new record of 20.8 million. At the same time, unemployment registered with job centres fell by 49,260 people in the fifth month of 2023, the ministry also reported. 

Thus, the total number of unemployed people registered with job centres at the end of May fell by 1.77% compared with April to 2.73 million people, the lowest level for the month of May since 2008, when there were 2.35 million unemployed people in Spain. ‘This is a very positive decline in a context of qualitative hiring and at record highs in both enrolments and active population,’ the labour ministry stressed. The figure published on Friday represents the third consecutive monthly fall in the number of unemployed.  


Despite a larger drop than in April, it was lower in May this year than in 2022 and 2021, when unemployment fell by 99,512 and 129,378 people, respectively, compared with the previous month. Moreover, May is usually a good month for employment, due to the arrival of nice weather and the reactivation of the hospitality industry, and 2023 was no exception. However, the drop of 49,260 people this year was the smallest since 2012 – when unemployment fell by 30,000 – with the exception of the 2020 peak due to the pandemic. In the past year to May 2022, unemployment fell by 183,881 people, a 6.29% drop. 

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Record social security enrolments 

Social security enrolments also showed an upward trend in May. The number of employed people increased by 200,411 compared to April, reaching a new record of 20,815,399. This is the first time Spain has broken the 20.8 million registered employed mark.  

Still, the increase in the number of registrations known on Friday is slightly lower than that in the same month of 2022 and 2021, when registrations rose by more than 210,000. Putting aside the May 2020 situation with the pandemic, the May 2023 increase in the number of people in work was the lowest since 2016, when the number increased by 198,000 people in work.

Furthermore, as summer approaches, jobs in the hospitality industry are picking up. The sector accounted for a third of the total with 67,315 new registrations. It was followed by the administration and trade sectors, which added 20,930 and 16,009 workers respectively last month. The total number of self-employed workers rose by 9,522 in May, bringing the total to 3,344,716. 

Fall in unemployment across all sectors 

Unemployment fell in all sectors in May. The service sector saw the biggest decline, with 34,665 fewer unemployed. In absolute terms, declines were less pronounced in industry, construction and agriculture, with declines of 4,622, 3,896 and 2,501 persons respectively, representing 2%, 1.8% and 1.4% fewer unemployed persons in each sector, respectively. The number of unemployed people without a previous job also fell by 1.4% compared to April, with 3,576 fewer unemployed. 

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