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Caribbean, Latin America lose 2.2m jobs

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 1:00 AM

Latin America and the Caribbean lost 2.2 million jobs in 2009 amid the global financial crisis, reversing five straight years of falling unemployment, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said Monday.

The United Nations agency said in its annual report that the downturn raised the region's urban unemployment rate to 8.4 per cent last year from 7.5 per cent in 2008, and the total number of unemployed rose to 18.1 million.

High commodity prices for most of the last decade led years of high economic growth in the region, but falling prices hurt economies last year.

Regional economic growth dropped to a projected 1.8 per cent in 2009, according to the United Nations' regional economic commission, CEPAL.

The commission said recovering demand for commodities like oil and copper should boost growth to 4.1 per cent in 2010.

But the ILO's regional director, Jean Maninat, said job creation will lag during the recovery, with the number of unemployed likely to hover around 18 million.

Maninat urged the region's governments to make employment a central policy issue.

"This crisis shows us quite clearly that the invisible hand of the market is not strong or efficient enough to develop sustainable businesses or to create the employment levels we need," Maninat said at a news conference in Lima.

The ILO's 2009 Latin American and the Caribbean Labor Review is based on household surveys and official government statistics in 14 countries.

- AP