(Adds details, quotes from economy ministry officials)
By Jamie McGeever and Marcela Ayres
BRASILIA, May 21 (Reuters) - The mounting pressure on Brazil’s workforce from the unfolding economic crisis during the new coronavirus outbreak was highlighted on Thursday as figures showed a 76% surge in formal unemployment insurance claims, and the Economy Ministry said it will increase emergency aid for informal workers.
Latin America’s largest economy is expected to shrink more than 5% this year, its steepest economic downturn since records began in 1900, and central bank president Roberto Campos Neto said this week that the unemployment rate will likely exceed 15%.
Economy Ministry figures showed that formal unemployment insurance claims in the first two weeks of May totaled 504,313, a rise of 76.2% from the same period a year earlier.
Some 77.5% of these claims were made online, the ministry said, compared with 1.7% a year ago, because of social isolation and quarantine measures in place across Brazil.
The year-to-date total to mid-May was also up from a year ago, by 9.6% to 2.84 million claims, the figures showed.
The figures were released shortly after the Economy Ministry said that total emergency measures taken so far amount to 344.6 billion reais ($62 billion), which will have an impact on this year’s primary budget worth 4.7% of gross domestic product.
Officials told reporters in Brasilia the emergency payments for low-paid, informal workers scheduled to be rolled out over three months will now total 151.5 billion reais.
That is up from 98.2 billion reais originally, then a revised 123.9 billion reais, due to more claims than forecast.
Asked if it could be extended further, Waldery Rodrigues, special secretary to the ministry, said care that for the most vulnerable in society must be accompanied by a “diligent and cautious” eye on the government’s fiscal position. (Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)