MADRID, Spain -- Official figures show the number of Spanish people registered as unemployed fell in the month of February for the first time since the global financial crisis started.

The Labor Ministry says Tuesday the jobless total fell by 1,949 in February to 4.81 million. Though modest, that's the first drop for the month since 2007 and a further sign that the Spanish economy is recovering.

On an annual basis, the jobless figure was down by 227,736.

Quarterly unemployment surveys -- considered more accurate by economists -- put Spain's unemployment rate at 26 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2013, with 6 million people out of work. The rate is the second highest in the European Union after Greece.

Spain's problems began in 2008 with the collapse of its real estate sector.