The good run that the Spanish labor market is going through also has limits. One of them is seasonality, and there the unwritten rule indicates that employment always chokes on the January slope. 2023 has not been an exception: registered unemployment increased last month by 70,744 people, according to data released this Thursday by the Ministry of Labor. Despite the bad data, the total number of unemployed, 2,908,397 people, manages to stay below the psychological barrier of three million unemployed, something that has not happened at the beginning of the year since 2008.
The downturn can also be seen from the point of view of the level of employment. The average affiliation in January, according to the figures also released this Thursday by the Ministry of Social Security, was 20.08 million workers. It represents a drop of 215,047 members compared to December. But again, looking with long lights, the Spanish labor market starts the year in a better position than ever: it maintains the mark of more than 20 million affiliates, something that it achieved for the first time in history last April and that has met all the months since.
The data released by the Government do not substantially change the panorama left by the last Active Population Survey. This verified that the labor market accused the slowdown in economic activity in the last quarter of last year. And the start of 2023 abounds in that perception of a time loaded with dark clouds, but where clear looms. Work, for example, highlights that the increase in the number of unemployed is lower than the historical average for January (with an average increase of more than 81,000 unemployed). And if last month was worse than that of 2022 —when the number of unemployed rose by only 17,173 people in the second best January since 1997— the unemployment behavior of 2021, 2020 and 2019 improved. On the other hand, since 2008, when there were 2.2 million unemployed, there was no first month of the year with less registered unemployment.
From the point of view of affiliation to Social Security, the situation is similar. The decrease of more than 215,000 affiliates is not a good figure in historical terms. If you look at the ten previous years, in three of them more jobs were destroyed in January and in the other seven less. What does not change is that January always starts with less employment than December, something that, according to the ministry headed by José Luis Escrivá, is due “to the end of the Christmas season.” But at the same time, the Executive insists on the increase in affiliation in seasonally adjusted terms (the data that Social Security always highlights), with 57,726 more people. And, whichever way you look at it, the more than 20 million affiliates mean that Spain has never had so many people working in January.
The employment data for this Thursday, bad without being catastrophic and better in some aspects than those of other Januarys, express the moment of uncertainty that the Spanish labor market is going through and, in fact, the entire economy. If Spain created employment last year while GDP increased by 5.5%, more than expected, by 2023 all the predictions point to that growth being cut short. The question is how much and in what way it will affect the labor market, which has been influenced for a year by the labor reform approved by the Executive and which has changed some paradigms.
More women standing
One of them is that of permanent contracts. 44% of the 1.2 million contracts that were signed in January fell into this category, which far exceeds the 15% of the first month of 2022, when the labor reform was launched and which even then seemed like a milestone (until that month, not even 10% was reached). According to Social Security records, only 15% of all affiliates now have a temporary contract, the historical minimum and half the average temporary employment that existed before the labor reform. Among those under 30 years of age, that rate has fallen from 53% to 23% after the change in labor regulations.
And that January has not been a good month for young people from the point of view of unemployment. The unemployed under 25 years of age grew by 7,753 people, according to the Ministry of Labor. Nor has it been conducive to women: of the more than 70,000 people who joined the unemployment lists, 49,937 were women, who continue to suffer higher unemployment (1.7 million unemployed), than men (1.2 million). In affiliation they are less (9.44 million) than they are (10.64 million). Despite this, the number of stops is the lowest for a month of January since 2009 and the number of affiliation is the highest in history for a start of the year.
By sectors, the rise in registered unemployment was mainly due to services (70,759 more unemployed), although agriculture and the group of people without previous employment also registered slight upturns in the number of unemployed. Construction and industry, on the other hand, saw their unemployment records drop discreetly. And by communities, only the Balearic Islands managed to have fewer unemployed than in December and it did so by the minimum: 297 people left the unemployment lists. In all the others there were increases in January, with Andalusia (21,048 more unemployed), Madrid (11,140), the Valencian Community (6,776) and Catalonia (5,306) at the forefront.
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