MADRID (AP) -- The number of people filing claims for unemployment benefits in Spain rose by 39,478 in April, the smallest increase in nine months but not yet a turning point for the ailing economy, the government reported Tuesday.
The total of those seeking joblessness benefits is now at 3,644,880, up about 1 percent from March, the Labor Ministry said.
April was the third straight month in which the rate of increase eased, after a rise of nearly 200,000 in January was followed by somewhat smaller figures in February and March.
Spain's actual unemployment rate, however, which is released separately and quarterly, was still an EU high of 17.4 percent as of the end of March.
The European Union forecast Monday it will hit 20 percent next year.
Maravillas Rojo, a senior official at the Labor Ministry, said that although the April figure was the smallest rise in nine months, the process of decline in the Spanish economy "for now does not allow one to speak of a turning point in the job market."
Spain was once one of Europe's economic success stories, posting more than a decade of solid growth. But over the past two years it has been hit hard by the collapse of its all-important construction industry and tighter credit conditions by banks amid the global downturn.
It is now in a technical recession and the International Monetary Fund predicts Spain's economy will contract 3 percent this year.