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(Recasts, adds details on wages, background)
By Silvio Cascione
BRASILIA, April 28 (Reuters) - Brazil's jobless rate rose to a three-year high in March and wages fell at the sharpest pace in more than a decade, data showed on Tuesday, as the economy headed into a likely recession.
The unemployment rate in Brazil's six largest cities rose to 6.2 percent in March from 5.9 percent in the previous month - the highest in three years, statistics agency IBGE said, and in line with expectations.
Wages fell 3.0 percent from March 2014 when discounted for inflation, the steepest drop since February 2004, to an average of 2,134.60 reais ($736) a month.
The report highlighted the rapid deterioration of Brazil's once-booming job market as the country's economy faces its worst recession in a quarter-century. It is also a major blow to President Dilma Rousseff, whose popularity has dropped to near record lows as job insecurity increases.
The number of Brazilians with jobs in the six major metropolitan areas surveyed by IBGE remained unchanged from March 2014 at 22.8 million. The tally of people who unsuccessfully looked for work rose 23.1 percent from the same month a year before, to 1.5 million.
A separate government survey earlier this month showed companies added payroll jobs in March, but at an insufficient rate to cover past layoffs. In the 12 months through March, Brazil's economy shed a net 48,678 jobs.
The unemployment rate, as calculated by the IBGE, tallies jobs in the formal sector, where employees are legally registered, as well as off-the-books jobs.
Brazil's economy, the largest in Latin America, is expected to shrink 1.1 percent in 2015, according to market forecasts. ($1 = 2.90 Brazilian reais) (Additional reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)