(Changes dateline, adds details on job losses, background)
FLORIANOPOLIS, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Brazil’s economy barely added jobs in 2014, government data showed on Friday, with job creation slowing to the worst pace in 15 years as investment plunged.
Excluding seasonal adjustments, Brazilian companies created a net 152,714 payroll jobs in 2014, the Labor Ministry said.
That was the smallest number since 1999 and a far cry from official forecasts for up to 1.5 million new jobs last year.
In December, usually a month of job losses as businesses adjust their payrolls, Brazil’s economy shed 555,508 net jobs , in line with market forecasts. That was the weakest result for the month since 2008.
Speaking at an event in the southern city of Florianopolis, Labor Minister Manoel Dias said 2014 was an “unusual” year and blamed weaker investments for the result. He said the unemployment rate remains low despite slow job creation.
“You can’t create many jobs with full employment,” he said. “Job creation will not slow down (further).”
Dias declined to provide a forecast for 2015, however.
Brazil’s economy ground to a halt in 2014 despite years of repeated attempts by President Dilma Rousseff to support local industries. News of layoffs have spread from car manufacturers to homebuilders, weighing on consumer confidence.
The unemployment rate, currently at 4.7 percent, has remained near record lows despite weaker job growth mostly because many young adults passed up entering the work force to dedicate more time to training.
“The deterioration in economic activity is set to keep job creation at low levels, triggering a faster increase in the unemployment rate this year,” economists at Itau Unibanco said in a research note. (Reporting by Monica Pileggi; Writing by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)