Spain's unemployment rate hit a record high in the first three months of this year as Europe's fourth-largest economy continues to struggle to create jobs amid its deepening recession.

The official jobless rate reached 27.2 percent for the three months ending in March, Spain's National Statistics Institute said in a statement published Thursday on its website. The figure tops the previous mark of 26 percent - reached in the final quarter of 2012 - and indicates that more than 6.2m Spaniards are actively looking for work.

Eurostat, the official statistics agency for the European Union, said in its most recent employment release published earlier this month that Spain's unemployment rate for February - 26.3 percent - was the second highest in the Eurozone behind Greece. Youth unemployment in Spain, Eurostat said, was a staggering 55.7 percent.

Earlier this week the Bank of Spain said the economy likely shrank 0.5 percent in the first three months of the year and that it will "prolong a contraction of economic activity during the first quarter of 2013, although at a lesser pace than that seen at the end of last year."

In its most recent World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund said Spain's economy will likely contract by 1.6 percent in 2013 - extending its recession into a second year - before rebounding growth of 0.7 percent in 2014.

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