Spain's economy slows down slightly to 3.1 percent in 2017

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

Official statistics show Spain's economy grew 3.1 percent in 2017, two percentage points slower than the previous year but still above the European Union average.

The National Statistics Institute said Tuesday that GDP growth slowed in the final quarter to 0.7 percent, from 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent in the third and second quarters.

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The statistics were in line with recent estimates by Spain's Central Bank, which said that strong exports were offsetting the negative effects of uncertainty in Catalonia. It warned, however, of risks ahead if the independence bid in the prosperous northeastern region keeps the political standoff alive.

Spain's conservative government has made economic growth and job creation its chief goals since taking office in 2011.

The official prediction is that the Spanish economy will grow 2.3 percent in 2018, according to the latest revision in the wake of the Catalan crisis.

But Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said Tuesday that growth could be closer to 3 percent if normalcy returns to the prosperous region. He said Spain needs two more years of growth above 3 percent year and increases in wages "to leave behind the worst part of the crisis."

The country saw record job creation in 2017, with 21.5 million employment contracts signed according to the Ministry of Employment and Social Security, though 19.6 million of them were temporary.

The government wants to create more than half a million jobs each year until 2020 to bring unemployment rates to pre-crisis levels, De Guindos said.

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