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Unemployment in Costa Rica reaches 15.7%, the highest in its history

June 18, 2020

Unemployment in Costa Rica reached 15.7% from February to April 2020, marking the highest-recorded level of that economic indicator, the official statistical agency announced Thursday.

The figure amounts to an increase of 4.4 percentage points in relation to the same period last year, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC).

Unemployment could rise further when the month of May is included in future reports, President Carlos Alvarado said, recognizing the ongoing and widespread repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

“In May, we will still see an impact, and it could even rise,” President Alvarado said.

He noted that the June numbers should incorporate the effects of Costa Rica’s gradual opening, in addition to the restart of economic activity at the international level, which could slow the growth of unemployment in the Central American country.

The level of unemployment among women is 20.8%, compared to 12.2% among men, the INEC said.

President Alvarado reminded that the government has allowed companies to postpone social-security payments and certain loans, and authorized reduced working hours in order to minimize layoffs.

According to the executive, some 200,000 people have been able to keep their jobs thanks to such measures.

“It is not a blow as deep as the one that could have resulted,” Alvarado said of the 15.7% unemployment rate.

Costa Rica has a population of about 5 million.

The coronavirus led Costa Rica to close a large part of its economic activity — especially tourism, one of the main engines of its growth.

Measures have been eased gradually since May. Starting Saturday, stores will be allowed to open on weekends, and beaches will have slightly extended hours. National parks are open, while hotels and restaurants can operate seven days a week in most areas.

Still, Costa Rica is restricting the entry of tourists for safety reasons, despite pushback from some sectors.

The Costa Rican Hotel Chamber said Thursday that it “can no longer endure” the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Through Thursday, Costa Rica has registered 1,939 cases of the coronavirus and 12 deaths.

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