Brazil registers record 14.4 million unemployed

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Pandemic-battered Brazil registered a record 14.4 million unemployed workers in the three-month period to February 2021, up two million from the year before, officials said Friday.

The unemployment rate for the period came in at 14.4 percent, said the national statistics institute IBGE. That was up from 11.6 percent the year before, when the coronavirus pandemic was just starting to be felt in Brazil.

Latin America's biggest economy has been hit hard by Covid-19, which has devastated the country since the first case was confirmed in February 2020.

"In one year of the pandemic, 7.8 million jobs were lost," IBGE said in a statement.

The December-February jobless rate was up 0.2 percentage point from November-January, the second straight increase after four months of decline -- the latest sign the Brazilian economy's pandemic recovery could be in trouble.

"The new record in the unemployed population grabs one's attention," said analyst Andre Perfeito, of consulting firm Necton.

"It reinforces the perspective that the labor market is fragile, meaning domestic demand can't be considered an engine for GDP growth this year."

The number of "discouraged" workers who have given up job-hunting also reached a record, at six million, up 26.8 percent in a year, according to IBGE.

Brazil's death toll in the pandemic surpassed 400,000 Wednesday, second only to the United States.

President Jair Bolsonaro faces backlash for downplaying Covid-19 and flouting expert advice on containing it. The Senate opened an inquiry this week into allegations the government mismanaged the crisis.

Brazil's economy contracted 4.1 percent last year, faring relatively well compared to other major economies.

But policy makers now face rising inflation and signs of a weakening rebound.

Analysts polled by the central bank are forecasting economic growth of 3.09 percent this year, but the figure has been revised steadily down as Brazil continues to struggle with a new surge of Covid-19 and shortages of vaccines for the country's 212 million people.