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ECONOMY | 27-05-2021 12:24

Unemployment in Brazil hit record 14.7% in first quarter

Unemployment in Brazil reached a record level of 14.7% in the first quarter of the year, 2.5 points up compared to the same period in 2020, official sources reported on Thursday.

Unemployment in Brazil hit a record 14.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, the government in Latin America's largest economy reported Thursday.

The rate in the same stretch of last year was 12.2 percent as the economy began to be hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 450,000 lives in Brazil.

The total number of job-seekers also set a record, at 14.8 million, said the national statistics institute, or IBGE.

The figures were in line with analysts' forecasts.

Brazil has been one of the countries hit hardest by Covid-19, with 215 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants – the highest rate in the Americas. Its economy contracted 4.1 percent last year. 

Recently, it has been showing signs of recovery, but they are now being clouded by fears that a new surge of the virus could be coming, amid a delay-plagued vaccination drive. Around 21 percent of Brazil's 212 million people have received a first Covid-19 vaccine dose, and around 10 percent a second.

Only the agriculture sector added jobs over the past year in Brazil, IBGE said.

"That is a reflection of the pandemic's impact. Almost every sector is employing less people than a year ago," IBGE research analyst Adriana Beringuy said in a statement.

Brazil began tracking unemployment in three-month sliding intervals in 2012.

The previous record rate was 14.6 percent in July-September 2020, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic.

Joblessness had then declined four straight times, before starting to rise again in November 2020 with the second wave of Covid-19.

In other warning signs, there were also record numbers in the first quarter of underemployed and workers who have given up looking for jobs.

The number of underemployed – workers without enough hours – rose by 1.2 million in a year, to 33.2 million. The number of discouraged job-seekers rose by more than one-fourth, to six million.

Analysts are forecasting Brazil's economic growth for the first quarter will come in at 1.6 percent.

However, the uptick was driven by the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in many cities and states, which epidemiologists warn was too soon.

President Jair Bolsonaro's government is facing criticism and a Senate inquiry over its unorthodox response to Covid-19.

The administration has fought stay-at-home measures, pushed ineffective medications such as chloroquine and rejected offers of vaccines.

– AFP

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