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Spain's economy grows at fastest rate since before crisis

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MADRID (AP) — Spain's National Statistics Institute says the economy grew by 0.9 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous three-month period, its strongest rate since before the economic crisis began in 2007.

It was Spain's seventh consecutive quarterly growth figure.

Spain was hit hard by the global financial crisis and only emerged from a double-dip recession at the end of 2013.

The government predicts the economy will expand 2.9 percent this year and by the same rate in 2016.

However, the country still has a staggering 23.8 percent unemployment rate. It is more than double that for people under age 25.

The ruling conservative Popular Party hopes the recovery can stem its plunging popularity ratings in time for municipal and regional elections May 24 and general elections later this year.

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