Madrid (CNN) -- Spain's unemployment rate has climbed to its highest level ever, the Spanish government said Thursday, as a painful recession takes a toll on the debt-stricken nation.
The latest official figures show 26.02% of the population without jobs in the last quarter of 2012, with just over 55% of those aged 16 to 24 unemployed.
The unemployment rate is the highest in the country's history, according to the Spanish National Statistics Institute, with the total number of jobless people at 5.97 million.
In 2007, before the global economic crisis hit, Spain had 1.9 million people unemployed -- 8.6% of the active population. By this time last year, the number had climbed to 5.2 million.
In the eurozone, only Greece, which is facing a sixth year of recession, has a greater proportion of young people out of work.
Spain, the fourth-largest economy in the eurozone, is suffering its second recession in three years, and its ailing banking industry has had to draw on the eurozone's bailout fund to stay afloat.
But it has stopped short of following in the footsteps of Greece, Ireland and Portugal in requesting a full-blown sovereign bailout.
Successive rounds of austerity measures have prompted angry public protests on Spain's streets.
CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.