Spanish economy grows at fastest rate since 2008

People wait for a government-run unemployment registry office to open, in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Spain's National Statistics Institute said the unemployment rate edged up to 25.9 percent in the first three months of the year from 25.7 percent in the previous quarter, a sign the recovery is still weak. The institute said Tuesday the number of people out of work fell by 2,300 in the January-March period, leaving the total number of unemployed at a rounded 5.9 million. (AP Photo/Paul White)

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish economy grew at its fastest rate in six years in the first quarter, a strong indicator that the country is recovering from a severe crisis.

The National Statistics Institute said Wednesday the economy expanded by 0.4 percent January through March. It was the best quarter since the first three-month period of 2008, when the economy grew by 0.5 percent.

The first quarter rate was double that of the previous three-month period.

Compared with a year earlier, the economy grew by 0.6 percent in the quarter, the first annual growth figure after nine quarters of contraction.

Spain emerged from a double-dip recession in the third quarter of 2013 but is still battling with a 26 percent unemployment rate.