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Spain's unemployment rate climbs to record high

By Oliver Joy, Laura Smith-Spark and Claudia Rebaza, CNN
updated 12:56 PM EDT, Thu April 25, 2013
Anti-eviction activists protest against the government's eviction laws in Mallorca on April 23, 2013.
Anti-eviction activists protest against the government's eviction laws in Mallorca on April 23, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Spain's unemployment rate climbs to a new record high of 27.2%
  • The total number of unemployed people is now 6.2 million, official figures show
  • Anti-austerity protesters are due to march on the Spanish Parliament Thursday

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(CNN) -- Spain's unemployment rate rose to a record high of 27.2% in the first quarter of 2013, the Spanish National Institute of Statistics said Thursday.

The figure represented an increase of 1.1 % from the previous quarter, as recession continues to take its toll on the debt-stricken nation.

Francisco Carrizo, 37, a Venezuelan teacher from Madrid, told CNN that unemployment is at "preposterous levels" and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's center-right government is feeding the Spanish people a "bunch of lies."

Watch more: Economist weighs in on Spain's banks

He said many of his students are considering emigrating for higher education to improve their job prospects, fueling fears that Spain is undergoing a "brain drain."

In 2007, before the global economic crisis hit, Spain had 1.9 million people unemployed -- 8.6% of the active population. That figure has now risen to 6.2 million.

Watch more: Help for Spanish banks

Figures from Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Spain's national statistics office, showed unemployment among 16 to 24 year-olds is at 57.2%. Joblessness is higher among women than men.

Carrizo -- who describes himself as a center-left supporter -- said: "I would like the government to be more honest and independent; and not submit to the markets. It seems to me that whatever Germany says, they do."

Watch more: How to fix the Spanish economy

Anti-austerity protesters are expected to march on the Spanish Parliament later Thursday in the capital, Madrid, as part of an organized movement to bring political change to the country.

Political activist Albert Jiménez, 28, told CNN that people -- both young and old -- are increasingly turning to politics to voice their frustrations against a government "that is letting the country go to hell."

Read more: The human cost of Spain's financial crisis

Jiménez, who works part-time as an office clerk and private tutor, said three of his friends have fled to northern Europe to look for work.

He added: "The young people that are staying are becoming very politically active in organized social movements."

Jiménez said it would be wrong to place all the blame for Spain's problems on Germany's shoulders.

Watch more: Failing banks in Spain drag down economy

He said: "Germany is not an NGO. Everyone knew what they were signing up in the eurozone and the European Union; an economic project. Germany saw the profits in the idea and so did Spain."

"Of course the situation is very bad, because we are doing all these adjustments," a spokesperson for the Spanish economy ministry told CNN.

Watch more: Spain economy eyed after Portugal plea

However, the spokesman said the protest movement was smaller than in other countries and the Spanish population was "extremely reasonable."

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.

In December, European finance ministers approved a 39.5 billion euro ($51.6 billion) bailout for Spain's banks, which suffered after the collapse of the country's property bubble.

But the Mediterranean country has stopped short of following in the footsteps of Greece, Ireland and Portugal in requesting a full-blown sovereign bailout from the eurozone's rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism.

To stave off a bailout, Rajoy's administration has been forced to implement harsh austerity measures to keep government borrowing costs sustainable while ensuring larger eurozone partners, such as Germany, remain onside.

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