(Adds wage and workforce data, background)
BRASILIA, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The unemployment rate in Brazil’s main cities rose in January to the highest for the month in seven years and wages fell sharply, adding to evidence that the labor market is reeling from the country’s deepest recession in decades.
Brazil’s non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose to 7.6 percent in January from 6.9 percent in December, statistics agency IBGE said on Thursday. It was the highest rate for the month of January since 2009.
The median forecast in a Reuters poll of 22 economists projected an unemployment rate of 7.95 percent in January.
Average wages discounted for Brazil’s double-digit inflation rate fell 1.3 percent from December and 7.4 percent from January 2015, to 2,242.90 reais ($568).
Brazil’s economy shed about 1.5 million jobs in 2015.
Proportionate to the population, the job decline is comparable with that in the United States at the height of its 2008-2009 financial crisis.
The country’s gross domestic product is believed by analysts to have probably contracted by about 4 percent last year and is expected to shrink more than 3 percent in 2016, in the worst forecast downturn for Latin America’s biggest country since 1901.
The number of Brazilians with jobs in the six major metropolitan areas surveyed by IBGE fell 2.7 percent from January 2015 to 23.0 million. The tally of people who unsuccessfully looked for work jumped 42.7 percent from a year earlier to 1.9 million.
IBGE will discontinue the six-city 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 November.
$1 = 3.9405 Brazilian reais Reporting by Silvio Cascione Editing by W Simon