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Unemployment in Costa Rica reaches 20.1%, the highest in its history, in midst of pandemic

July 16, 2020

Unemployment in Costa Rica reached 20.1% from March to May 2020, marking the highest-recorded level of that economic indicator, the official statistical agency announced Thursday.

The figure marks a significant increase over the previous high of 15.7% from February through April.

The unemployment rate reflects an increase of 8.8 percentage points in relation to the same period last year, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), and amounts to 190,000 more unemployed Costa Ricans compared to 2019.

“This reflects the state of affectation in the labor market indicators due to the restrictions taken in the country in order to contain the COVID-19 pandemic,” INEC said.

Women have a higher unemployment rate than men (26.0% compared to 16.3%).

Meanwhile, an estimated 17.6% of laborers are underemployed, meaning they work fewer than 40 hours per week and want more hours. That reflects an 8 percentage-point increase over the same period in 2019.

President Carlos Alvarado acknowledged last month that unemployment numbers would likely continue to rise, recognizing the ongoing and widespread repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Measures have been eased gradually since May, though many were reapplied this week due to a spike in cases. Still, Costa Rica plans to reopen its airports on August 2, the Health Ministry said this week.

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