* Fernandez says economy grew 1.8 pct in 2012
* Official data won't be released until mid-February
* Gov't to raise income tax floor, pension benefits
BUENOS AIRES, Jan 28 Argentina's unemployment
rate was 6.9 percent in the fourth quarter, up just slightly
from a year earlier even though economic growth slowed sharply,
President Cristina Fernandez said on Monday.
In the fourth quarter of 2011, the jobless rate was 6.7
percent, according to the INDEC statistics institute.
"We are nearly at the same level of record unemployment that
we reached in the last quarter of 2011," Fernandez said during a
live televised speech.
"We have practically the same unemployment this year, when
we're going to grow at 1.8 (percent), as we did when we grew at
INDEC is due to release official economic activity data for
December and 2012, as well as the fourth-quarter unemployment
figures, in mid-February. In 2011, the Argentine
economy expanded 8.9 percent.
The president also announced the government will raise the
floor for income tax eligibility by 20 percent, responding to
demands from the country's labor unions.
Private economists estimate consumer inflation at around 25
percent a year, and wage increases have tended to be in line
with that figure.
As of March 1, the new minimum salary for paying income tax
will rise to 8,360 pesos ($1,681) a month for a single person,
and 11,563 pesos ($2,325) for a married worker with two
children. Fernandez said this would cost the state over 8
billion pesos in lost tax revenue.
The center-left leader also announced state pension benefits
will rise 15 percent starting in March. By law, the government
must raise pension payments twice a year using a formula that
takes into account various economic and price variables.
The minimum pension payment will rise to 2,165 pesos a
month, or roughly $435, which Fernandez said would help sustain