Spain's unemployment rate surged past 27 percent to a new record in the first quarter of 2013, official data showed Thursday as a deep recession ravaged the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.
A record unemployment number was also expected to emerge later Thursday in France, the eurozone's second-biggest economy.
Spain's new figure put its jobless rate just below that of bailed-out Greece -- the highest in the European Union at 27.2 percent.
A hardline protest movement organised online meanwhile called for protestors on Thursday to "Besiege Congress" indefinitely to force the government to quit.
Spain's jobless rate leapt to 27.16 percent from the previous quarter's figure of 26.02 percent, and reached a huge 57.2 percent among those under 25 years old, the National Statistics Institute said.
The number of unemployed climbed by 237,400 people to 6.2 million, it said in the latest gauge of damage wrought by the collapse of Spain's property bubble in 2008.
Spain, once the motor of job creation in the 17-nation single currency area, is now struggling through a double dip recession brought on by the collapse of the boom.
Its economy contracted by 1.37 percent last year, the second worst yearly slump since 1970, and the government forecasts it will shrink again by between 1.0 percent and 1.5 percent this year.
Meanwhile, northern neighbour France braced for data which was feared could mark an all-time high in terms of the number of people unemployed.
Having seen a steady increase in unemployment over the past 22 months, February data showed that 3.187 million people were without a job in France, just 8,000 less than the previous record set in 1997, and the March figure was widely expected to be higher still.
Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said Thursday that the government was "preparing itself for a figure which, taking into account anaemic growth, will not be very good."
Laurent Berger of the CFDT trade union was even more blunt, saying: "There is no reason to think it will be anything but catastrophic".
In Spain, the surge in unemployment has caused evictions to soar, overwhelmed food banks with demand and forced tens of thousands of people, particularly youths, to leave in search of work abroad.
The number of households in which all eligible members are unemployed reached 1.91 million in the first quarter, the statistics office said.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government, in office since December 2011, has reformed labour laws to make it easier to hire and fire workers and imposed harsh austerity measures which he says are needed to curb the public deficit and help the country save 150 billion euros ($196 billion) by 2014.
His government was due on Friday to unveil a further package of economic reforms.
On Wednesday, Rajoy told parliament the job outlook this year "will not be good, but it will be less bad than in the preceding years.
"Next year we will have growth and jobs will be created in our country," he added.
The European Commission predicts that Spain's unemployment rate will hit 26.9 percent this year before easing slightly to 26.6 percent in 2014.
London-based analyst Raj Badiani of IHS Global Insight warned in a note that the latest figures "suggest that Spain lacks the tools to break free from the recessionary spiral" and said it needed extra short-term measures to support employment.
Rajoy's austere measures have sparked furious street protests by critics who say public spending cuts are punishing the poor.
A movement organised online called a mass demonstration around Congress, the lower house of parliament, in central Madrid on Thursday.
Organisers called for protestors to "Besiege Congress" to force the government to resign in what would be the latest in a series of mainly peaceful protests since 2011.
Police said 1,400 officers would be deployed to prevent violence, and the interior ministry said four members of anarchist groups were arrested ahead of the protest, suspected of planning to set fire to a bank.