Colombia economy contracts 20% in April under coronavirus impact

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s economy contracted 20.06% in April versus the same month last year - its largest fall on record - as the country suffered the fallout of a national coronavirus lockdown, the government’s statistics agency said on Thursday.

President Ivan Duque declared an ongoing national quarantine to curb the spread of the disease in late March. Though some restrictions have recently been lifted, the lockdown is set to last until July 1.

The collapse of Colombia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth month of the year was much higher than the 4.9% drop seen in March, statistics agency DANE said.

From January to April this year Latin America’s fourth-largest economy contracted 4.3%, compared with the same period in 2019.

The tertiary sector - made up of retail, public services, restaurants, bars, accommodation and transport - shrank 9.2%, the agency said. Tertiary economic activities overall account for some 67% of the economy.

Extractive industries, including oil and mining, collapsed 13.75%, while manufacturing and construction fell by 50.12%.

The contraction was due to the “effects of the measures of confinement and limitation of economic activity,” said DANE director Juan Daniel Oviedo in a virtual press conference.

The Andean country’s economy grew 1.1% in the first quarter of the year, after robust expansion in January and February was offset by the start of pandemic measures in March.

Thousands of businesses have shuttered, unemployment has spiked and the government - which has abandoned its fiscal deficit limits for 2020 and 2021 - expects the economy to contract by 5.5% this year.

In April, unemployment hit a historic 23.5% in urban areas, equivalent to more than 4 million people out of work, as the government promised further welfare measures to help those most affected.

Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Oliver Griffin; editing by Jonathan Oatis