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Spain unemployment up for first time in 5 months

(AP) MADRID - The number of people registered unemployed and claiming benefits in Spain rose in August by 38,179 compared to the previous month, the first increase in five months, Spain's Employment Ministry said Tuesday.

Ministry spokeswoman Engracia Hidalgo said in a statement that a total of 4,625,634 people were eligible to claim unemployment benefit, an increase of 0.8 percent.

Although Spain, the fourth largest economy among the 17 countries that use the euro, is in a double-dip recession, the year-on-year August number dropped from 51,185 in 2011, the statement said.

Hidalgo said although the monthly rise in unemployment was bad news, the increase was the smallest since August 2006.

Another slightly positive note was that unemployment among young people under 25 years old, one of the brackets hardest hit by the recession, fell by 4,060, a 0.9 percent dip relative to the previous month.

Markets fearful that Spain may not be able to reduce its swollen deficit have been charging high prices for the country's debt.

Spain's benchmark 10-year bond rate stood at 6.7 percent and the IBEX-35 stock index was flat in morning trading Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to visit Madrid on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, where Spain's progress with austerity measures is likely to be high on the agenda.

"The Government remains committed to pursue all necessary reforms to promote employment," said Hidalgo.

At the end of the second quarter, Spain reached the European Union's highest unemployment rate at 24.6 percent. A new overall rate won't be released until October.

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