* Most January layoffs were from Spain's service sector
* Registered jobless rise was lowest for January since 2007
* Joblessness falls in seasonally adjusted terms
* Work remains hard to find, badly paid, for many Spaniards
By Susana Vera and Paul Day
MADRID, Feb 4 The number of registered jobless
in Spain rose in January as employers shed workers hired for the
Christmas holiday season, but the rate of increase slowed from
previous years, suggesting the ailing labour market may have
Joblessness rose 2.4 percent, or by 113,097 people, from
December to 4.8 million, Tuesday's Labour Ministry data showed.
The rise was the first since October. But the ministry said
it was also the smallest gain in the first month of the year
since 2007, and in seasonally adjusted terms the figure fell by
Unemployment has soared higher in Spain than in any other
European Union country bar Greece since a decade-long property
bubble burst six years ago and, based on labour market survey
data from the national statistics office, the rate was 26
percent in the fourth quarter of 2013.
But recent stronger-than-expected economic growth has helped
fuel hopes the worst may be over, and headcount in the still
battered construction sector rose by 3,486 last month.
"These figures are, to some extent, positive, but continue
to show a minimal, almost insignificant, step toward a real
recovery in the labour market," said Citi economist Jose Luis
"We've almost certainly touched bottom and are seeing some
recovery, but it's very slow."
Almost 100,000 people were laid off from the services
sector, while employment also fell in agriculture, by 8,110
people and in industry, by 3,577.
But in annual terms, registered jobless fell by 166,343
people, the ministry said.
"This month's figure remains significantly better than
previous years, considering that in the last five years
registered joblessness has risen by an average of 544,000 people
on an annual basis," said Employment Secretary Engracia Hidalgo.
The Spanish economy emerged from a two-year recession in the
second half of last year, prompting many economists to raise
their economic forecasts and the government to forecast net job
creation for 2014.
But for many Spaniards, making ends meet remains a constant
struggle. Jobs are scarce and, when they do become available,
wages are often pitifully low.
Toni Trigo Domenech, 34, has lived with her 41-year-old
husband Majid Mnissar and their three children in her parents'
small, two-bedroom flat in Madrid since he lost his job and the
family were evicted from their rented apartment four years ago.
At the time, she was earning just 690 euros a month as an
auxiliary nurse for the elderly and, with rent of 650 euro a
month, Trigo turned to her family for help.
"Either we stopped making the rent payments or we stopped
eating. I couldn't let my children go hungry", Trigo said.
Within a year, Trigo had also lost her job and has been
unable to find full-time work since.
Today, she works two cleaning jobs which earn her less than
400 euros a month, and is forced to accept help from a food
bank. Meanwhile, tempers fray in the tiny, shared flat.
"Things are desperate," she says. "There's just nothing out
there and my husband's finding the same thing. It's not easy
standing outside a supermarket asking people to donate. But it
has helped us put food on the table all these months."