(Adds details on wages, employed population, background)
By Silvio Cascione
BRASILIA, Jan 28 (Reuters) - The unemployment rate in Brazil’s main cities fell more than expected in December as fewer people sought jobs in the middle of the country’s deepest recession in decades, government data showed on Thursday.
Brazil’s non-seasonally-adjusted jobless rate fell to 6.9 percent from 7.5 percent in November and below all estimates in a Reuters poll.
Average wages discounted for inflation rose 1.4 percent from November to 2,235.50 reais ($549) but declined 5.8 percent from December 2014, statistics agency IBGE said.
Brazil’s economy shed about 1.5 million jobs in 2015, a decline comparable with that in the United States during the height of its financial crisis in 2008-2009.
The number of Brazilians either employed or seeking jobs in the six major metropolitan areas surveyed by IBGE fell by 0.3 percent in December from November, while the non-economically active population grew by 1 percent, suggesting fewer people sought jobs as the recession worsened.
Brazil’s economy probably contracted 4 percent last year and is expected to shrink 3 percent in 2016, in the worst forecast downturn for Latin America’s biggest country since 1901.
The nation’s central bank had pointed to the cooling of Brazil’s job market as one of the reasons for its surprise decision not to raise interest rates last week, even as annual inflation runs above 10 percent.
IBGE will discontinue the survey of Brazil’s urban unemployment rate in March and replace it with a national survey, the so-called Pnad Contínua. The national unemployment rate stood at 9.0 percent in October.
$1 = 4.0737 reais Reporting by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn