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LISBON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Portugal’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 8.1% in August from a revised 7.9% in July as tens of thousands of jobs were wiped out amid the coronavirus pandemic, the National Statistics Institute (INE) said in its flash estimate on Wednesday.
The overall number is likely to be substantially higher as many workers stopped looking for jobs in the lockdown and many others were put under the furlough scheme, meaning they are left off unemployment statistics.
“Since mid-March 2020, some measures have been taken to safeguard the public health due to COVID-19 pandemic, which have affected the normal functioning of the labour market and, therefore, the monthly employment and unemployment estimates,” INE said.
About 877,000 workers were on furlough in July, a scheme which allows firms to temporarily suspend jobs or reduce working hours instead of firing workers.
The indicator of labour under-utilisation - which, in addition to the unemployed, includes part-time workers and those currently inactive - reached 823,000 people in August, INE said.
Those under 25 have been hit the hardest, with the jobless rate among Portugal’s young people up 0.1 percentage points to 26.3% in August.
Unemployment had been falling as Portugal slowly recovered from a debt crisis, but is likely to hit 9.6% this year due to the health crisis.
The tourism-dependent economy grew 2.2% in 2019 while unemployment was near record lows at 6.5%, but lockdowns at home and abroad have kept visitors away and shuttered many businesses.
A separate set of data by the Institute of Employment and Professional Training showed the number of those registered as unemployment in Portugal rose above 400,000 in August, and is up more than a third on the same period last year.
In the southern Algarve region, which relies heavily on tourism, the number of people registered as unemployed soared 177% in August compared to a year ago. (Reporting by Maria Gonçalves and Catarina Demony; Writing by Catarina Demony; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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