UPDATE 1-Brazil unemployment under 5 pct despite weak job growth

Thu May 22, 2014 8:34am EDT

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(Adds data on wage growth, background)

By Silvio Cascione

BRASILIA May 22 (Reuters) - Brazil's jobless rate dropped unexpectedly in April despite weak job growth as fewer people sought work, government data showed on Thursday.

Brazil's non-seasonally-adjusted jobless rate fell to 4.9 percent from 5.0 percent in March, government statistics agency IBGE said.

Economists expected a rise in the unemployment rate to 5.2 percent, according to the median forecast in a Reuters poll. In April 2013, Brazil's jobless rate, which is measured in six major metropolitan areas, stood at 5.8 percent.

Brazil's unemployment rate remains one of the lowest among major economies and very near a record low, a factor helping President Dilma Rousseff's chances of getting re-elected in October.

A key reason why the unemployment rate has remained so low despite weak economic growth is that an increasing number of teenagers and young adults have opted out of the labor force to dedicate more time to training.

The so-called economically active population, or the number of people either employed or actively seeking work, dropped 0.8 percent from a year before, its seventh straight decline.

That has helped offset sluggish job creation. Brazil's economy added a net 105,384 payroll jobs in April, Labor Ministry data showed on Wednesday, well below market expectations.

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 informal sector in Brazil's six major urban areas.

According to IBGE, the number of Brazilians with jobs remained practically unchanged from March and from a year earlier at 22.9 million. The number of people who failed to find a job was also unchanged from March but dropped 17 percent from a year earlier.

Inflation-adjusted wages rose 2.6 percent from April 2013 to an average of 2,028 reais ($918) a month. That was 0.6 percent lower than in March.

($1 = 2.21 Brazilian reais) (Additional reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by W Simon)

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