Portugal's jobless numbers jump nearly 37%, worst since 2017

LISBON, March 22 (Reuters) - The number of people registered as unemployed in Portugal jumped nearly 37% in February from a year ago to reach a level not seen since mid-2017, when the country was slowly recovering from a severe debt and economic crisis.

The total of those officially without a job rose to 431,843 people, meaning more than 116,000 jobs have been lost since February 2020, a month before the pandemic hit, data from the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training showed on Monday.

In May 2017, around 432,000 people were registered as unemployed as the numbers fell from a 2013 peak. It had significantly dropped since then, but the pandemic reversed the trend, wiping out thousands of jobs.

The data showed that a new lockdown imposed on Jan. 15 to tackle what was then the world’s worst coronavirus surge had an impact on jobs across the tourism-dependent nation, with some of the most affected being women and those without university degrees.

In the southern Algarve, famous for its beaches and golf courses but now nearly deserted, the number of registered jobless spiked 74% to 33,458 last month from a year ago, making it the most affected region followed by Lisbon.

The tourism industry, which was booming before the COVID-19 outbreak, played a crucial role in the recovery from the 2010 economic and debt crisis. The sector suffered its worst results since the mid-1980s last year.

No crisis in recent history has hit Portugal’s economy as hard, with the country’s gross domestic product shrinking 7.6% last year, its biggest annual slump since 1936. (Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Ingrid Melander, William Maclean)