Pontevedra has traditionally been a trading city. In the Middle Ages, guilds thrived in the old town, giving name to streets and squares still preserved today. At that time Pontevedra was the main Galician port, providing for a very intense fishing and sea-trading activity.
In the 1833 territorial division of Spain Galicia was sub-divided into four provinces, and Pontevedra became capital of its own province. The city then became an administrative and commercial centre, in contrast with Vigo, which attracted the industrial activity. In fact, the first modern industries to appear in Pontevedra would only do so in the 1960s.
At present, the tertiary sector employs 65 per cent of the population, while industry employs 17 per cent. Industrial activity is reduced to a handful of companies, namely pulp mills (in gradual recession) and construction. The tertiary sector is not especially dynamic, although a number of policies have been implemented to improve the situation. Tourism is slowly on the increase, with visitors coming mostly from Spain and Portugal. The total unemployment rate is 12.12% (2001), presenting a clear disparity between men (9.1%) and women(16.4%).
Pontevedra was the seat of Caixa de Pontevedra, one of the credit unions that merged in 2000 with Caixavigo (from Vigo) and Caixa Ourense (from Ourense) into Caixanova, one of the largest credit unions in the Spanish State.
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