(Adds jobs creation in March)
By Silvio Cascione
BRASILIA, April 17 (Reuters) - Brazil’s jobless rate dropped unexpectedly in March as fewer people sought jobs, highlighting a trend that has helped keep unemployment near record lows despite weak economic growth.
Brazil’s non-seasonally-adjusted jobless rate declined in March to 5.0 percent from 5.1 percent in February, statistics agency IBGE said on Thursday.
The number was below the median forecast of 5.4 percent in a poll of 23 economists. In March 2013, Brazil’s jobless rate stood at 5.7 percent.
The drop came even after the Brazilian economy added fewer jobs than expected in all of March. The economy added 13,117 jobs that month, less than a fifth of what the market expected, according to labor ministry data released later on Thursday.
Brazil’s jobless rate remains one of the lowest among major economies and very near a record low, boosting President Dilma Rousseff’s chances of getting re-elected in October.
A key reason why the unemployment rate has remained so low despite weak economic growth is that an increasing number of teenagers and young adults have opted out of the labor force to dedicate more time to training.
The so-called economically active population, or the number of people either employed or actively seeking work, dropped 0.6 percent from a year before in the six major metropolitan areas surveyed, its sixth straight decline.
The number of Brazilians with jobs remained practically unchanged from February and from a year earlier at 22.9 million. The number of people who failed to find a job was also unchanged February but dropped 11.6 percent from a year earlier, IBGE said.
Inflation-adjusted wages rose 3.0 percent from March 2013 to an average of 2,026.60 reais ($904) a month. That was 0.3 percent lower than in February though.
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 in the informal sector in Brazil’s six major urban areas. Later on Thursday, the Labor ministry will release numbers on net payroll job creation in March for the entire country.
$1 = 2.2419 Brazilian reais Reporting by Silvio Cascione Editing by W Simon and James Dalgleish