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Unemployment in Costa Rica was rising even before coronavirus crisis

May 8, 2020

Unemployment in Costa Rica reached 12.5% ​​in the first quarter of this year, up from 11.3% in the same period of 2019, the official statistical agency reported Thursday.

The figures do not register the full impact of the new coronavirus, which will cause the economy to shrink this year, according to the Central Bank of Costa Rica.

In absolute terms, the unemployment figure is equivalent to 314,153 unemployed people between January and March, out of a total population of 5 million, the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) said in a statement.

The agency clarified that the contemplated period “includes two weeks since a health emergency was declared, so an effect of COVID-19 is not reflected in the main indicators of the labor market.”

The last quarter of 2019 closed with an unemployment of 12.4%, according to the INEC.

Costa Rica registered its first case of the new coronavirus on March 6 and declared a health emergency on March 16. In the process, it closed some businesses to avoid crowding, closed borders to arriving tourists and called on the population to stay home.

The measures dealt a severe blow to various economic sectors, such as tourism, which was paralyzed in the height of the high season. Meanwhile, the restaurant sector reported the closure of 40% of the establishments and 100,000 layoffs.

According to INEC, there was also an increase of 3.8 percentage points in underemployment, which reached 12.4%. Underemployment occurs when people work fewer than 40 hours per week and desire to work more.

Meanwhile, the informal employment rate remained stable at 47.1%. In this category are those who receive income outside the state’s tax control and the legal provisions on labor matters.

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