Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed in an end-of-year message Friday to deliver longed-for jobs to the hard-hit nation in 2014. Rajoy sounded an optimistic note after the eurozone's fourth largest economy emerged gingerly from recession in the third quarter of 2013 despite registering a staggering 26-percent unemployment rate. "Next year, when I appear before you again, there will be fewer people unemployed and more people working," the Spanish leader told a news conference after the last cabinet meeting of the year. The Popular Party government remained "far" from its key goal of generating net jobs growth, the prime minister conceded. Nevertheless, Rajoy said he expected Spain would end 2013 with fewer people registered as unemployed than in 2012. "That has not happened in Spain since 2006," he said. Rajoy said Spain's economy, which expanded by 0.1 percent in the third quarter, had regained a path of "modest" growth in the second half of 2013. "So we can affirm that we have witnessed a clear change in the situation," he said. The prime minister thanked Spaniards for the efforts they had made in 2013, when a budget squeeze, high unemployment and corruption scandals led to angry street protests. "If 2012 was the year of tightening, 2013 was the year of reforms and 2014 will be the start of the economic recovery in our country," Rajoy said. "We are ending the year with much more solid foundations for economic recovery." The prime minister said electricity prices would rise by 2.3 percent in the first quarter of 2014 after his government cancelled a bidding process by energy companies that would have sent bills soaring by 11 percent. However, the prime minister said the cabinet had decided to freeze the minimum wage for next year at 645.30 euros ($890) a month while lifting pensions, which are no longer linked to inflation, by just 0.25 percent. Spain was pushed to the brink of an all-out sovereign bailout in 2012 but was saved in large part by a European Central Bank promise to intervene if necessary on the bond market, lowering the country's borrowing costs. Nevertheless, the country had to borrow 41 billion euros from its eurozone partners to shore up tottering banks, ridden with bad loans since a decade-long property boom imploded in 2008. The government, which took power in December 2011, has enacted reforms making it easier to change work conditions and cheaper to lay off staff. At the same time, it has implemented austerity policies, including cuts in health and education, so as to curb annual deficits and rein in the national debt. Last month, Standard & Poor's upgraded Spain's credit rating outlook to "stable" from "negative", citing its diversified economy and the government's reform agenda. But the agency said the outlook for Spanish debt, which is rated just one notch above junk-bond status, was constrained by high private and public debt, low economic growth prospects through 2016 and "remaining inflexibilities" such as the job market. Spain's government is forecasting a 1.3-percent economic contraction in 2013 and 0.7-percent growth in 2014, a pace considered by many analysts to be insufficient to lead to net job creation.