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By Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood

SANTIAGO, Chile, Thurs. July 15, 2020 (Reuters) – The coronavirus pandemic will swell the ranks of the poor and unemployed in Latin America and the Caribbean and drag the region´s economic output down by 9.1%, a United Nations agency said in a report issued on Wednesday.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimated an additional 18 million people will find themselves out of work versus 2019 levels as lockdown measures continue to hammer already frail economies.

The agency expects 44.1 million will be unemployed by year´s end, a figure higher than that registered amid the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

“Latin America and the Caribbean is today at the epicenter of the pandemic,” ECLAC said in its report. “While some governments have begun to ease containment measures, others have had to maintain or even intensify them in the face of the persistent increase in new cases.”

The region´s poor will swell to 230.9 million in 2020, up from 185.5 million in 2019, and account for 37.3% of Latin America and the Caribbean´s population. Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru will see the largest spikes, the agency said.

Slumping growth globally, alongside a downturn in consumption and investment by top trade partners China and the United States, will hit demand for the region´s abundant raw materials, driving exports down by 23%.

The agency did, however, note an incipient recovery in some regional economies, and highlighted the positive impacts of fiscal and monetary stimulus implemented by countries throughout the region.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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