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Spain's unemployment rate drops to 22.4 percent as government prepares for elections

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MADRID — Statistics released Thursday said Spain's unemployment rate dropped to 22.4 percent in the second quarter, welcome news for the governing Popular Party as it prepares for upcoming general elections

Spain's jobless rate is still the second highest in the EU after that of Greece.

The National Statistics Institute said the number of people out of work fell by 295,600 between April and June for a rounded total of 5.1 million.

The rate was 23.8 percent in the first quarter.

Unemployment soared after 2008 because of the financial crisis but the economy resumed steady growth last year and is now one of the fastest-growing in the European Union.

The ruling conservative party hopes the recovery can stem its drop in popularity in time for general elections to be held by the end of year.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Thursday the figures were "excellent," adding that Spain had gone from being the cause of half the unemployment in European Union to being the creator of half the new jobs in the bloc.

The government has promised to create 600,000 jobs by the end of the year.

The statistics institute said the unemployment rate for people under 25 years of age was 49.2 percent, making it the first time it has dropped below the 50 percent mark since 2011.

It said 411,800 jobs were added in the period, the highest number for a quarter since 2005.

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