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Spain's unemployment rate edged down to 20.9 percent in the fourth quarter, positive news for the acting ruling Popular Party as it struggles to form a new government following last month's inconclusive election

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MADRID — Spain's unemployment rate edged down to 20.9 percent in the fourth quarter from 21.2 percent the previous quarter, at the end of a year when the number of jobless fell by a record amount, the National Statistics Institute said Thursday.

The institute said the number of people out of work dropped by 71,300 in the October-December period to a rounded total of 4.8 million. Over the year, the number of people without work dropped by a record 678,200.

The incumbent ruling Popular Party had hoped its record on creating jobs could help it stay in office but so far it has failed to muster the necessary support from other parties following an inconclusive election Dec. 20.

The institute said 525,100 jobs were created in 2015, below the 600,000 figure promised by the government.

The Popular Party won most seats in the election but failed to garner a majority. If it cannot obtain sufficient outside support, another party may be called on to form government.

The statistics institute said the jobless rate for people under 25 years of age edged down to 46.2 percent from 46.6 percent in the third quarter.

Unemployment shot up in Spain as of 2008 due to the global financial crisis, but the economy started growing solidly in 2014.

The country is now the European Union's leading job-creator, although its unemployment rate remains the second highest in the 28-country bloc after Greece.

The latest unemployment rate is the lowest since the second quarter of 2011. At the end of 2011, when the Popular Party took office, the rate was 23 percent.

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