Labor group: 2.4M layoffs due in Latin America

LIMA, Peru (AP) -- As many as 2.4 million Latin Americans could lose their jobs this year because of the global economic crisis, the International Labor Organization warned on Tuesday.

The global slowdown will reverse last year's gains across the region, where urban unemployment dropped to 7.4 percent from 8.1 percent, according to a statement from the labor monitor's offices in the Peruvian capital.

During 2009, unemployment is expected to increase in the region for the first time since 2003, to an annual average between 7.9 percent and 8.3 percent.

"We are talking about between 1.5 and 2.4 million jobs that could be lost this year," the statement read, warning that the loss could reverse advances against poverty.

The ILO report was based on information provided by the region's governments from January through November 2008.

Last year's unemployment rate of 7.4 percent represents 15.7 million people. It is the lowest regional rate since 1992.

Uruguay and the Dominican Republic achieved the largest reductions in unemployment last year. Peru registered the smallest improvement.

The report says that Latin America began to feel the affects of the global financial crisis in the third quarter of 2008, with reduced demand for exports, falling prices for raw materials, tighter credit and declining remittances from relatives abroad.

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