San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica unemployment hits 20-year high

Costa Rica´s jobless rate has reached its highest level in more than 20 years, jumping to 7.8 percent in 2009, up from 4.9 percent in 2008, according to a study released Thursday morning by the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC).

According to INEC´s Multipurpose Household Survey, of the 4,318,115 people in the country, 2,121,451 were employed in July of this year, which is when the study was conducted. In 2009, there were 64,039 more unemployed citizens in the country than in 2008.

Officials recorded the highest unemployment rate in 1982, when an economic crisis made jobless numbers skyrocket to 9.4 percent. The rate proceeded to fall in 1983 and ´84, when it hit 7.9.

This year is the first time it has grazed that mark since.

The percentage of households living in poverty this year also increased to 18.5 percent in 2009, up from 17.7 percent last year.

“It´s never good news to have this type of growth in the unemployment and poverty rates,” said the Minister of the Presidency Rodrigo Arias. “Above all we should keep in mind that behind the numbers there are people and families.”

Breaking down the total, INEC found that the unemployment rate of women rose from 6.2 percent to 9.9 percent, while the unemployment rate of men rose from 4.2 percent to 6.6 percent.

The Central Valley´s unemployment rate is 7.5 percent. The highest unemployment rate, 10.1 percent, was recorded in the Chorotega/Guanacaste region.

The Central Valley also recorded the lowest rate of poverty, at 15.3 percent. The highest poverty rate was in the Brunca/Puntarenas region. Over 30 percent of the population was considered to be living in poverty, with 8.5 percent considered to be experiencing extreme poverty.

“We have to remember that Costa Rica, like the rest of the world, has lived the last few months in the wake of the worst economic crisis of the last decades,” Arias said. “Thanks to the responsibility in the management of the national economy … the figures in our country and much less than in other nations.”

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