June 2, 2020 / 9:21 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Austrian unemployment eases as lockdown loosens

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VIENNA, June 2 (Reuters) - Austrian unemployment has continued to ease from a peak in mid-April as the step-by-step loosening of its coronavirus lockdown has helped people back to work, Labour Minister Christine Aschbacher said on Tuesday.

Austria imposed a lockdown early in the outbreak of the virus, in mid-March, which helped flatten the curve of infections but also drove unemployment to its highest level since the data series began in 1946, rising above 12% by a national measure.

The conservative-led government began loosening the lockdown a month later - shops, bars, restaurants, schools and hotels have all since reopened.

“The (lockdown) loosenings are becoming noticeable step by step,” Aschbacher said, adding that the unemployment rate was 11.5% at the end of May.

The number of job-seekers stood at 517,221, down from 523,346 a week earlier, she told a news conference. That comprised 473,300 registered unemployed and 43,921 people in training.

In addition, 1,371,338 people were registered for the government’s kurzarbeit layoff prevention scheme, which enables employers to keep staff on their books while only paying for hours actually worked, with the government topping up that amount. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alex Richardson and Ed Osmond)

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