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Economy

COVID-19 Pushes Greek Unemployment to 17%, Relief Measures Coming

ATHENS – A long lockdown that closed non-essential businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – now rising again – cut hard into Greece's economic output and drove the unemployment rate for May to 17 percent, up from 15.7 percent in April.

Data from the country’s statistics service ELSTAT showed the rate was the highest in the last nine months, the Coronavirus' impact stopping a quicker recovery from a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis.

Seasonally adjusted data showed the number of unemployed at 764,912 people, with those aged up to 24 the hardest hit again, said Kathimerini, with 37.5 percent joblessness, up 5.3 percent from the same month in 2019, with worry it will get worse amid fears of a possible second wave because of people ignoring health protocols.

Greece’s jobless rate, which hit a record high of 27.8% in September 2013 has been falling during a slow recovery and Aug. 20, 2018 end of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($386.23 billion) but is still the Eurozone's highest.

The government had expected growth of 2-3 percent before COVID-19 hit, the virus ending any hope of a successful tourism season in the summer with arrivals far below expectations because of entry restrictions.

The European Commission forecast unemployment in Greece will rise to 19.9% this year, projecting the economy will contract by 9 percent, that number a little less than feared amid earlier gloomier reports.

To counter the pandemic's hurt on the economy and workers, the New Democracy government, which poured 17.5 billion euros ($20.73 billion) into subsidizing laid-off workers and their companies, is working on another relief package said Kathimerini.

The government is getting some 72 billion euros ($85.3 billion) in loans and COVID-19 grants from the European Union but it hasn't been said in detail how that will be disbursed or used. 

The newspaper said the government proposals could include incentives for recruitment by companies, such as the coverage of part of the employer contributions by the state, suspending tax payments and providing liquidity to companies.

The new support measures are estimated to concern about 330,000 employees and the plan is said to also include letting companies put their employees on contract suspension until the end of September, which would make them eligible for a special state subsidy of up to 534 euros ($632.66) per month.

The measures apply to private sector companies which are active in the fields of food, culture and sports, as well as other domains affected by the pandemic, the report said.

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