UPDATE 2-Brazil's jobless rate posts surprise drop in August
* Unemployment rate falls to 5.3 pct in August
* Salaries jump 1.7 pct from July
By Silvio Cascione
SAO PAULO, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Brazil's jobless rate fell unexpectedly and salaries jumped in August from the previous month, government data showed on Thursday - further evidence that the economic slowdown seen in the third quarter might not be as abrupt as predicted.
It was the second consecutive month-to-month drop in Brazil's jobless rate, which remains close to record lows.
With Brazilians holding down their jobs, strong retail sales helped the economy avoid a sharp downturn in July, according to central bank data earlier this month.
Brazil's jobless rate fell to 5.3 percent in August from 5.6 percent in July, statistics agency IBGE said. The number was lower than all 24 forecasts in a Reuters poll.
"These numbers points to an improvement in private consumption, which could offset at least part of the drop we expect for investments in the third quarter," said Enestor dos Santos, Brazil economist with Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria S.A., in Madrid. "It may be too early to presage an increase in economic output in the third quarter. We still expect a drop. But this drop may be smaller than we predicted."
Brazil's economic growth accelerated in the first half of this year following a slew of interest rate cuts, tax breaks and other incentive measures by President Dilma Rousseff's government. However, part of that stimulus has been reversed as inflation climbed, leading economists to slash their 2013 and 2014 growth forecasts to little more than 2 percent.
Also pointing to resilient consumption, real wages, or salaries discounted for inflation, rose 1.7 percent from July to an average of 1,883.0 reais ($848) a month - an increase of 1.3 percent from a year earlier.
The IBGE report also showed the number of Brazilians with jobs in the six major metropolitan areas surveyed stood at 23.2 million, unchanged from July and 1.2 percent higher than in August last year. The tally of people who unsuccessfully looked for work dropped 6.0 percent from July to 1.3 million.
The unemployment rate, as calculated by the IBGE, tallies jobs in the formal sector, where employees are legally registered, as well as off-the-books jobs in the so-called informal sector.
In August last year, Brazil's jobless rate also stood at 5.3 percent.