Argentina jobless rate hits 16-year high amid pandemic, lockdown

FILE PHOTO: Workers who were fired from the Labor Ministry sell lentil soup outside the Ministry building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s unemployment rate jumped to 13.1% in the second quarter of the year as the country was swiped by the coronavirus pandemic, the official statistics agency said on Wednesday, the highest since 2004 and up from 10.4% in the previous quarter.

Argentina imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March, hitting an already shaky economy in recession since 2018 and leaving many businesses struggling to survive. The country now has over 650,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“The (unemployment) numbers largely reflect the impact on labor market dynamics from the COVID-19 pandemic and from the restrictions on certain activities and movement,” Argentina’s INDEC statistics body said in a report.

The agency said the sectors hardest hit included construction, hotels and restaurants and domestic services.

The South American grains producer, which is just emerging from default on its foreign debt, needs to revive its economy and get people back to work to stave off a sharp increase in poverty and to refill depleted government coffers.

Reporting by Jorge Iorio; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Tom Brown