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By Silvio Cascione
BRASILA, March 27 Brazil's jobless rate rose slightly in February but remained low compared to the same month a year before, indicating a tight labor market that continued to lend support to a flagging economy while fueling inflation pressures.
Brazil's non-seasonally-adjusted jobless rate rose in February to 5.1 percent, up from 4.8 percent in January, the government statistics agency IBGE said on Thursday.
The number was in line with the median forecast of 5.1 percent in a poll of 27 economists. In February 2013, Brazil's jobless rate stood at 5.6 percent.
Brazil's jobless rate remains one of the lowest among major economies despite weak economic growth, helping support for President Dilma Rousseff as she seeks re-election in October.
The number of Brazilians with jobs remained unchanged from January and from a year earlier at 23 million. The number of people who failed to find a job increased 6.9 percent from January but dropped 8.3 percent from a year earlier to 1.2 million people, IBGE said.
Inflation-adjusted wages rose 3.1 percent from February 2013 to an average of 2,015.60 reais ($875) a month. That was 0.8 percent higher than in January.
A shrinking workforce is a key reason why Brazil's jobless rate has remained low even as the economy has struggled to grow since 2011, economists say.
The so-called economically active population, or the number of people either employed or actively seeking work, dropped 0.5 percent from a year before in the six major metropolitan areas surveyed, its fifth straight decline.
A main reason is the combination of Brazil's aging population with its recent progress on education, which has kept an increasing number of teenagers and young adults out of the labor force to dedicate more time to training.
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.
IBGE plans to introduce changes to the current labor market survey in 2015, such as the use of a broader quarterly survey including data from more than 3,000 cities.
($1 = 2.3025 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier, Writing by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Stephen Powell)