Spain: Nation's high unemployment rate barely budges in Q4, stays stuck at 23.7 percent

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MADRID — Spain's unemployment rate remained stuck at 23.7 percent in the fourth quarter ending in December compared with the previous three-month period, marking an end to a series of joblessness rate declines throughout 2014, the government's statistics agency said Thursday.

The National Statistics Institute put the total number of unemployed at a rounded 5.5 million as Spain recovers from two recessions, the last of which ended late 2013.

The final 2014 Spanish jobless rate is down from 25.7 percent for the fourth quarter of 2013. Spain added 434,000 jobs in 2014, the institute said.

The Spanish economy has expanded in each of the past four quarters and the International Monetary Fund predicts it will grow 2 percent in 2015, more than the economic growth expected for most other European countries.

Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guidos said 2015 growth could be stronger than the IMF estimate, saying it was not "unreasonable" to predict expansion near 3 percent.

His comments were echoed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by Ana Botin, chairwoman of Spain's largest bank, Banco Santander SA.

She said Spain's economic outlook is improving and the 2015 growth rate appears "closer to 3 percent."

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