Our goal here is to explain the strikingly different response of Spanish unemployment relative to other European economies, in particular France, during the ongoing recession. The Spanish unemployment rate, which fell from 22% in 1994 to 8% in 2007, reached 19% by the end of 2009, whereas the French unemployment rate has only increased by less than 2 pp. during the crisis. We argue that labor market institutions in the two economies are rather similar, except for the larger gap between dismissal costs of workers with permanent and temporary contracts in Spain, which lead to huge flows of temporary workers out of and into unemployment. We estimate in a counterfactual scenario that more than one-half of the increase in the unemployment rate would have been avoided had Spain adopted French employment protection institutions before the recession started.