Spanish unemployment has hit a new record high, official figures have shown.
The number of unemployed people reached 5,639,500 at the end of March, with the unemployment rate hitting 24.4%, the national statistics agency said.
The figures came hours after rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Spanish sovereign debt.
"The figures are terrible for everyone and terrible for the government... Spain is in a crisis of huge proportions," Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said.
Here on the sun-drenched and windy Iberian Peninsula, Spain thinks it has an answer: create new jobs and save the Earth at the same time.
Green jobs have become a mantra for many governments, including that of the United States. But few nations are better positioned -- or motivated -- to fuse the fight against recession and global warming than Spain. The country is already a leader in renewable fuels through $30 billion in public support and has been cited by the Obama administration as a model for the creation of a green economy. Spain generates about 24.5 percent of its electricity through renewable sources, compared with about 7 percent in the United States.
But with unemployment at 18.5 percent, the government here is preparing to take a dramatic next step. Through a combination of new laws and public and private investment, officials estimate that they can generate a million green jobs over the next decade. The plan would increase domestic demand for alternative energy by having the government help pay the bill -- but also by compelling millions of Spaniards to go green, whether they like it or not.
In the long term, the government envisions a new army of engineers and technicians nurturing windmills and solar farms amid the orange orchards and carnation fields of Andalusia and Galicia. In the short term, officials say, the renewable-energy projects and refurbishing of buildings and homes for energy efficiency could redeploy up to 80 percent of the million construction workers here who lost their jobs in 2008.
Spain's ambitious effort is being closely watched by the Obama administration and other governments forming their own green-job plans. The U.S. stimulus bill is dedicating billions in grants and loans to renewable-energy projects, marking a shift away from Washington's more passive approach to green growth, which relied largely on tax incentives.