January 21, 2013 / 2:25 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Mexico's jobless rate eases more than expected in Dec

* Jobless rate slows to 4.96 pct, below 5.1 pct in Reuters poll

* Bolsters bets for steady growth

* Headline unadjusted rate lowest in at least 3 years

By Alexandra Alper

MEXICO CITY, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Mexico’s jobless rate dipped in December, easing fears of a sharp economic slowdown in Latin America’s No. 2 economy.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell more than expected to 4.96 percent last month, the national statistics agency said on Monday, pulling back from an 8-month high hit in November.

The figure beat expectations for a 5.1 percent rate in a Reuters poll. December’s rate was also below a downwardly revised 5.11 percent unemployment rate for November.

Unemployment has fallen back from rates near 6 percent seen during a deep recession in 2009, but has crept up in recent months as the global slowdown has begun to weigh.

Economic growth in Latin America’s second-largest economy moderated in the third quarter and economists expect fourth-quarter activity to be affected by weaker global demand and lingering fiscal woes in the United States, Mexico’s biggest trading partner.

Mexico’s central bank held borrowing costs steady on Friday, but said it could cut interest rates if inflation continues to cool and economic growth flags, dropping its recent threat to tighten policy.

The headline unadjusted rate was 4.47 percent in December, the lowest level in at least three years. It came in below the 4.77 percent expected in the poll and down from the 5.12 percent notched the month prior.

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