The queue of Spanish jobless benefit claimants shrank in May for a third straight month, raw data showed Tuesday, a result hailed by the government as it battles record unemployment.
But Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative Popular Party government admitted that May is often a good month for the labour market.
And when seasonal blips are smoothed out, the data showed that the number of job seekers was actually almost unchanged.
Raw figures from the Labour Ministry showed that the number of people registered as unemployed fell from the previous month by 98,265, or 1.97 percent, to 4.89 million in May, after declines of 0.91 percent in April and 0.1 percent in March.
"Registered unemployed and hiring showed a good performance in May," Secretary of State for Employment Engracia Hidalgo said in a statement, adding that it was the steepest fall in jobless claims on record for the month of May.
"The government is committed to laying the foundations for a solid economic recovery that will allow Spain to recover the path of stable, quality job creation," she said.
But after correcting for seasonal variations, the figures showed Spain's labour market barely changed, with the number of people registered as unemployed falling from the previous month by a paltry 265 people to 4.875 million in May.
Spain's official unemployment rate shot to a record 27.16 percent in the first quarter of 2013, according to a broader, quarterly household survey conducted by the National Statistics Institute.
Rajoy's government is forecasting the jobless rate will ease to 26.7 percent over 2014 and ease back further to 25 percent in 2015.
Spain, the eurozone's fourth-largest economy, is still struggling to overcome the aftermath of a property bubble that imploded in 2008, destroying millions of jobs and sending debt levels soaring.
To curb the debt, the government launched in 2012 a biting austerity programme of spending cuts and tax increases aimed at finding 150 billion euros in savings for the public purse by 2014.
A combination of austerity, recession, high unemployment and political corruption scandals have sparked mass protests in the streets. The government forecasts the economy will shrink by 1.3 percent in 2013.