April 30, 2020 / 1:41 PM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 1-Chile jobless rate hits highest level in a decade

(New throughout, adds context, details from statement)

SANTIAGO, April 30 (Reuters) - Chile’s jobless rate in the first quarter of 2020 rose to 8.2% from the same period the previous year, the government said on Thursday, touching its highest level in a decade as measures to combat the spread of coronavirus left many out of work.

Much of Chile´s economy has been shuttered since early March, when the outbreak began. The industries with the sharpest spike in unemployment were fishing and agriculture, manufacturing, and teaching, national statistics institute INE said in a statement.

Unemployment had already begun to creep upwards in Chile following months of often violent protests over inequality that began in late 2019.

Now the coronavirus, and the restrictions imposed to contain it, are expected to batter its already ailing economy.

Economists widely predict a sharp contraction of Chile´s gross domestic product in 2020 and double-digit unemployment by year´s end.

Chile, among Latin America´s most stable economies, has reported more than 15,000 cases and more than 200 deaths.

The South American nation has already announced an historic stimulus package of $17 billion, worth more than 5% of gross domestic product.

Measures include beefed-up unemployment checks, deferred tax payments and government-backed credit lines for small business. (Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by David Gregorio)

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