Madrid: Spain's gross domestic product shrank 0.4 percent in the first three months of this year after contracting 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to figures released Monday by the central bank.
Two consecutive quarters of negative growth is the technical definition of recession.
First-quarter GDP was down 0.5 percent compared with the same period in 2011, the first inter-annual fall in two years, Banco de Espana said.
Unemployment continued to rise in January-March, though at a "slightly less pronounced" pace than in the fourth quarter of 2011, the bank said, estimating a current jobless rate of nearly 24 percent.
Banco de Espana blamed a 0.4 percent drop in consumer spending in the first quarter on worsening unemployment, declining household wealth, tax hikes and an increase in economic uncertainty.
Government expenditure also fell as a result of austerity policies aimed at trimming Spain's budget deficit.
Exports remained the only bright spot, but the level of growth dropped from 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 0.6 percent in January-March.
While Spanish products have become more competitive internationally, the pace of export growth will be slow because of weakness in global markets, Banco de Espana said.