San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Grupo Nación, Merck downsizing workforces in Costa Rica

Two prominent companies in Costa Rica, publisher Grupo Nación and pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme, announced department cutbacks and layoffs this week.

The announcements came amid reports this week that as many as 2.4 million Latin Americans could lose their jobs this year in the wake of the global economic downturn, ending a five-year rally of declining unemployment, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said Tuesday.

Merck Sharp & Dohme will close its packaging plant in the western San José district of Pavas at the end of 2009, making about 104 employees expendable, according to company spokeswoman Irene Arguedas. However, Arguedas stressed that the scheduled closure is “an unfortunate coincidence,” not a consequence of the global finaincial crisis.

Grupo Nación, which publishes the newspapers La Nación, Al Día, La Teja and Vuelta en U, announced that the restructuring was the result of reduction in advertising. The publisher will lay off 25 people, cut budgets in all areas of production by 15 percent, and eliminate Vuelta en U´s print product, turning it into an online-only newspaper, management said in Thursday´s La Nación.

Another sign of recession, the construction sector has reported 15,000 job losses, according to TV channel 7.

“The employment crisis has arrived in the region,” ILO´s regional director for Latin America Jean Maninat said in Lima, Peru. “After five consecutive years of unemployment, until 2008, the rate will go back up in 2009.”

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