Spain's prime minister says the country's economy is on track to grow 2.9 percent this year and expand an additional 2.9 percent in 2016.

Mariano Rajoy gave the upbeat assessment a month before his party is expected to face a tough challenge in nationwide regional and local elections from the main opposition Socialist Party and two new parties attracting huge voter interest.

Rajoy's announcement Monday boosted the growth outlook from a 2.4 percent prediction for 2015 he issued in February.

Rajoy did not predict where he expects Spain's sky-high unemployment rate to be by the end of the year but said he expects the country will produce 500,000 new jobs.

The jobless rate stands at 23. 8 percent. It is more than double that for people under age 25.