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Unemployment in Costa Rica reaches 24%, the highest in its history

August 6, 2020

Unemployment in Costa Rica reached 24% in the April-June quarter, the highest on record, as the country continues to suffer the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Thursday’s report from the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), the unemployment figure reflects an increase of 12.1 percentage points compared to the second quarter of 2019, when the lack of jobs was already a government priority.

“In absolute terms, the unemployed population reached 551,000 people, an increase
of 256,000 people compared to the second quarter of 2019,” INEC said.

The data indicate the economic crisis is especially affecting women. Unemployment is 30.4% among women, compared to 20% for men.

“For women, there is a higher level of unemployment, although in both sexes, the unemployment rate has doubled with respect to what was observed in the same period of the previous year,” the report reads.

INEC highlighted that the pandemic has especially impacted work in the commerce, transport, hotel and restaurant, and construction sectors.

Some 62% of hotel and restaurant workers have seen their jobs affected by the economic crisis, INEC said.

The institution also noted an increase in underemployment, which reached 20.5% in the second quarter of this year. Underemployment occurs when people work fewer than 40 hours per week and want to work more.

Informal employment comprises 39.8% of the economically active population of Costa Rica, 6.6 percentage points less than in the same quarter of 2019, according to INEC.

President Carlos Alvarado said that he will meet with mayors and representatives of the private sector later Thursday afternoon to discuss economic options in context of the pandemic.

“If there exists a proposal that would allow us to have more [economic] opening without saturating our health system, have no doubts that we will allow it,” President Alvarado said.

“We’ve been learning throughout this experience. This has never been done before.”

Costa Rica has eased coronavirus measures through Sunday, but it is currently planning a “Closed Phase” from August 10-21 during which it will impose strict driving and business restrictions in the San José area.

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