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Dutch new unemployment claims soar 42% as coronavirus measures bite

FILE PHOTO: Pubs and bars at the famous Leidseplein have closed their doors in response to a rapidly expanding coronavirus outbreak, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The number of people filing for unemployment benefits in the Netherlands soared 42% in March as many businesses were shut down in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

The Dutch federal employment agency on Thursday said it had paid benefits to 37,800 new unemployed in March, an increase of 11,200 from the month before.

The strongest increases were among people who used to work in restaurants and bars and among people under 25 years of age, the agency said.

The Dutch government on March 15 ordered all restaurants, bars, museums, sport facilities and other public places in the Netherlands to shut down in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

They are to remain shut until at least April 28, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte has repeatedly said this situation will only gradually change after that date, if at all.

To help businesses cope with the economic standstill and to prevent massive layoffs, the Dutch government has said it will cover up to 90% of the wage bill of companies who see a significant decline in sales in the coming months.

More than 85,000 companies have already applied for this support.

But despite the help, the number of people who lost their jobs in March jumped almost 10% from the previous month to around 283,000, Statistics Netherlands said.

After almost 7 years of uninterrupted economic growth, unemployment in the euro zone’s fifth largest economy had dropped to a historically low level of 2.9% in the first quarter of this year.

Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Toby Chopra

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