* Unemployment rises to 5.4 pct from 4.6 pct in December
* Real wages dropped 0.1 pct from December
SAO PAULO Feb 26 Brazil's unemployment rate
rose slightly more than expected in January but remained near a
record low, the latest sign of a tight job market that is
stoking inflation as the government struggles to rein in
Government data released on Tuesday showed Brazil's jobless
rate rose to 5.4 percent from 4.6 percent in
December. The rate was the lowest for the month of January,
despite the increase, since the data series began in March 2002,
according to statistics agency IBGE.
The number was slightly above the median forecast of 5.3
percent in a Reuters survey of 27 economists. In January 2012,
Brazil's jobless rate was 5.5 percent.
Brazil's jobless rate is not seasonally adjusted and usually
rises in January as businesses lay off temporary workers
following the holiday season.
A separate report by the labor ministry had showed an
unusually sharp drop in payroll job creation in January, though.
Brazil's economy added a net 28,900 payroll jobs
last month, the worst January since 2009 and 76 percent down
from the same month last year.
A strong labor market is crucial for Brazil's ambitions to
at least triple its growth rate from a mediocre 1.0 percent
estimated for last year. But the tight supply of workers in some
areas has also fueled inflation, creating a dilemma for the
central bank as it tries to keep interest rates at record lows.
The IBGE report showed that the number of Brazilians with
jobs in the six major metropolitan areas fell 1.2 percent from
December to 23.1 million people. The number rose 2.8 percent
from the same month a year earlier.
The number of people who unsuccessfully looked for work rose
17.2 percent from December and remained unchanged from a year
earlier at 1.3 million.
Real wages, or salaries discounted for inflation, dropped
0.1 percent from December to an average of 1,820.00 reais ($919)
a month. They rose 2.4 percent from the year-earlier period.
The unemployment rate, as calculated by the IBGE, tallies
jobs in the formal sector, where employers are legally
registered, and off-the books jobs in the so-called informal
sector. On the other hand, the labor ministry's nationwide
payroll collection is based on a survey of only legally
registered, or "formal sector," employers.
Estimates for the rate ranged from 4.9 percent to 5.5
percent, according to the Reuters poll.