We all know that Europe has been hard-hit by the economic crisis. But a stark reminder came this week in Spain, where a quarter of the workforce is unemployed. When furniture seller IKEA announced it was hiring workers for a new store, it got an overwhelming response.

Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: This Christmas ad for IKEA on Spanish TV touts the jobs as much as the furniture.

On Monday, IKEA started accepting applications for 400 jobs at a new store near Valencia. Company spokesman Rodrigo Sanchez says IKEA wasn't prepared for what came next.

RODRIGO SANCHEZ: (Through Translator) We opened the application process Monday with the intention of keeping it open through December 31st. But we got so many applications in the first 48 hours that it crashed our servers.

FRAYER: More than 20,000 applications for 400 jobs. So many Spaniards are out of work, there are one-in-50 odds to get jobs at IKEA, including some that pay just minimum wage.

The IKEA spokesman says they expect even more applications once their servers are back up.

SANCHEZ: (Through Translator) We know we're in this situation right now, partly because of the economic situation in the country.

FRAYER: Twenty-six percent unemployment, and double that for youth. But Spain's economy is technically out of recession. Exports are up. The jobless rate has dropped by one percent. That's little consolation for the IKEA applicants. It could be years before their odds improve.

For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

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