LISBON: Portugal made big strides against high unemployment in the second quarter of the year when it emerged from a three-year bailout, official data showed yesterday.
The unemployment rate fell to 13.9 percent of the workforce, from 15.1 percent in the first quarter, the national statistics institute Ine said.
At the beginning of last year the rate stood at 17.5 percent. Since then the country has pushed on with deep reforms, and overcome political crises, to emerge from an international bailout in May.
The government and the European Commission also predicted unemployment will fall to 15.4 percent by the end of the year, down from 16.3 percent at the end of 2013.
Another important indicator, the number of people in work, also improved. The total with a job rose by 2.0 percent both from the level in the first quarter and over 12 months. Portugal climbed out of the bailout by the International Monetary Fund and EU by winning back confidence on the eurozone bond market where it can once again borrow to finance itself. The country is seen by many investors as a poster boy for drastic austerity measures, including reform of the labour market, which have weighed heavily on the Portuguese people.
But in the first quarter of this year the economy took a surprising step backwards. Gross domestic product, which began to grow at the end of last year, dipped by 0.6 percent.
On Sunday, Portugal averted a fresh crisis when the government and its central bank, with EU backing, raced to the rescue of Banco Espirito Santo (BES), the third-biggest bank in the country.