Spain moves away from 21 million jobs after surpassing its best moment in summer

The dynamism of tourism during the summer holidays has not been enough for Social Security to accommodate the 21 million affiliates that Spain could have achieved between July and August. Having passed the summer stage, the period of greatest labor movement in an economy focused on the service sector (restaurants, hotels, leisure), the labor market has begun to contain slightly this month of September without having achieved that objective to which the Government alluded before the vacation.

The Minister of Inclusion and Social Security, José Luis Escrivá, celebrated in May the “extraordinary” affiliation data and anticipated that “in the coming months”, specifically in “June or July”, 21 million contributors would be reached. Historically, Spain aspired to exceed 20 million, a goal that was left behind with the pandemic crisis but that reemerged with greater strength in the subsequent recovery stage between 2022 and 2023.

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September closed with more unemployed although, at the same time, a greater number of employees compared to August. This apparent contradiction is explained because there are more citizens who need to register on the employment lists because they no longer have a summer job and due to registration needs to apply for another position. But, at the same time, other Spaniards have achieved affiliation to Social Security in sectors that do not have to be exclusively service sectors.

Although Spain has already passed the peak of the summer season, employment does not show major signs of exhaustion. In September, 18,295 jobs were created, according to data from Social Security affiliates. This figure exceeds that of the same month in the 2017-2019 period, before the pandemic, when 17,480 more jobs were recorded, on average, each September.

In this way, the number of Social Security affiliates has grown by 495,017 people in the first nine months of the year and stood at 20,735,911 workers in September, discounting seasonality and the calendar effect. More jobs have been created in the January-September period than in the entire year 2022, according to the Ministry of Inclusion.

BBVA Research considers that these September data, with 31,000 more affiliates in seasonally adjusted terms (that is, adjusting them without taking into account the time of year in which it is about to be summer or winter), “represent a positive surprise with respect to the forecasts with the information of the first fortnight and an acceleration of employment. For its part, Funcas compares the September data with those of the first half, which “confirms the slowdown in affiliation compared to the first half of the year.”

One of the keys to understanding the employment boom has been the rise of higher education “above what is usual at this time of year,” says Funcas. With the start of the school year, hiring accelerates and on this occasion this has been one of the leading sectors in job creation. According to the economic studies organization, “the push for the affiliation of foreign workers” has also had a positive impact, with an increase of almost 12,000 in September and 137,000 since January in seasonally adjusted terms). In fact, the affiliation of foreigners represents around 30% of the total job creation registered so far this year.

The average membership figure stands at 20,724,796, the highest in the series for the month of September, and the month concluded again above 20.8 million members on the last day of the month. The department directed by José Luis Escrivá recalls that between September 20 and 29, 20.8 million members have been exceeded, “overcoming this barrier again for the first time since July 28.”

Compared to the pre-pandemic level (February 2020), membership has grown by more than 1.3 million people in adjusted terms, of which two out of every three correspond to the private sector. The growth in membership compared to the pre-pandemic level is especially intense in sectors with high added value such as IT and Telecommunications, whose number of members has increased by 24.3%, or Professional, Scientific and Technical Activities, which shows growth of 14.7%. Since the end of the pandemic, one in four new affiliates (297,000 in absolute terms) has joined these two highly productive sectors.

Social Security also remembers that the percentage of affiliates with a temporary contract stands at 14%, half of what was registered before the labor reform (30%). In the case of those under 30 years of age, the reduction in the temporary employment rate is more intense, falling by 31 percentage points (from 53% to 22%) compared to the level it had before the reform.

In addition, Social Security includes in its monthly affiliate information information on contributions usually excluded from these statistics. It does so to indicate that the system’s income from social contributions of companies and workers has grown by 9.8% in September. This figure includes the increase in contributions applied since January for all workers through the intergenerational equity mechanism (an additional 0.6%). Without this increase in fees, the growth in contribution income would have risen by 8%, according to their calculations.

More unemployment in September

For its part, unemployment has increased in September by 19,768 people, which for the Ministry of Labor means “continuing the usual growth trend although moderating the increases that characterize this month.” In total, Spain has 2,722,468 registered unemployed, which is 219,451 less than a year ago. The spike in unemployed people in September (almost 20,000) is the largest for this month since before the pandemic began. You have to go back to 2018 to see an increase in unemployment greater than that limit.

The increase in unemployment is fundamentally explained by the behavior of the services sector after the month of August. Activities and businesses linked to tourism, hospitality, accommodation, restaurants or leisure, among many others, have added 18,820 unemployed in September, almost all of the new unemployment. It has also increased in the group of those who sign up for unemployment for the first time in their lives (almost 7,000 young people) while it has decreased in construction (3,718) and in agriculture (about 2,100 people).

In the month of September, female unemployment has increased by 11,422 women to reach 1,640,863 while that of young people under 25 years of age increased by 17,043 people compared to the previous month and stands at 205,000, the lowest figure in the last fifteen years and has chained 29 consecutive months of interannual falls.

The Spanish labor market maintains the dynamics that have been recorded since the implementation of the labor reform, at the beginning of 2022: more permanent contracts, including discontinuous permanent contracts for which the number of unemployed is still unknown, and less temporary. The total number of contracts registered during the month of September was almost 1.4 million. Of them, 623,439 have been permanent, representing almost 45% of the total. The temporary ones stand at 768,766, 13% less than a year ago. In the first nine months, 6,540,059 temporary contracts have been registered, which represents a decrease of 2,381,508, almost 27% less.

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