March 29, 2019 / 2:00 PM / 20 days ago

UPDATE 2-Brazil unemployment jumps for second straight month to 12.4 pct

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RIO DE JANEIRO, March 29 (Reuters) - Brazil’s jobless rate rose sharply in February for the second straight month, government data showed on Friday, adding to pressure on new President Jair Bolsonaro to reignite a sluggish economic recovery.

Unemployment rose to 12.4 percent in the three months through February, according to statistics agency IGBE, up from 12.0 percent in the three months through January and 11.6 percent at the end of 2019.

The jobless rate had been mostly falling over the past two years as Brazil emerged slowly from a devastating 2015-16 recession, but it remains far above a low of 6.5 percent before the crash.

Brazil’s persistently high unemployment reflects a huge degree of slack in the economy, which has kept growth anemic, interest rates at a record low and inflation well contained.

The labor market has shown signs of stirring back to life. The economy added a net 173,139 payroll jobs in February, largely due to gains in civil construction and manufacturing of intermediary goods.

That was more than double the same month last year and twice as much as analysts had forecast in a Reuters poll.

Still, economists and policymakers remain cautious. The central bank has warned that stubbornly high unemployment shows the economy is operating well below capacity, a major factor behind policymakers downgrading their assessment of inflation risks this month. (Reporting by Gram Slattery Writing and additional reporting by Jamie McGeever in Brasilia Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Phil Berlowitz)

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