Colombia's economy contracted 16.65% in May as virus lockdown continues

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s economy contracted 16.65% in May versus the same month a year ago as ongoing measures to curb the spread of coronavirus hit production, the government’s statistics agency said on Friday.

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 Aug. 1.

In May, Colombia’s closely watched urban jobless rate more than doubled to 24.5%, from 11.2% in the same month of 2019. Nationally, the unemployment rate also more than doubled, to 21.4%.

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.

In April, Colombia’s economy contracted 20.5% versus the same month in 2019, the largest fall on record.

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.

Reporting by Oliver Griffin; editing by Diane Craft