LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s tourism-dependent Algarve region saw its number of unemployed triple in May compared with a year ago as the coronavirus crisis kept foreign visitors away, wiping out thousands of seasonal jobs, data showed on Monday.
In Portugal as a whole, the total of those without jobs rose by 34% from a year earlier to nearly 409,000 people, data from the Institute for Employment and Vocational Training revealed.
The Bank of Portugal forecast last week that the jobless rate, which had been falling steadily under the ruling Socialists, to 6.5% in 2019, would jump to 10.1% this year, slightly above the government’s own estimate of 9.6%.
In the southern Algarve, famous for its beaches and golf courses, the total number of those out of work spiked to 27,675 in May from 9,153 in the same month of 2019.
The number of new unemployment registrations fell, however, to 1,296 in May from 4,700 in April, as Portugal started phasing out restrictions to prevent contagion.
With no tourists in sight, even those who haven’t lost their jobs are scared of what the future holds.
“I know it’s weird to say this but we need foreigners to be able to work,” said 32-year-old Daniela Valerio, who works at a pub in Vilamoura Marina, which is usually thronged with tourists at this time of year. “The foreigners pay our wages.”
The tourism industry contributed 14.6% to gross domestic product in 2018, according to the latest official data, and helped drive recovery from a severe debt crisis in 2010-14.
Portugal has reported 39,133 coronavirus cases and 1,539 deaths, far fewer than in neighbouring Spain.
But a persistent several hundred new coronavirus cases per day and a growing outbreak after a party in the Algarve are threatening the country’s image as a safe holiday destination.
Reporting by Catarina Demony, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Catherine Evans
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