UPDATE 1-Brazil bumper job creation in February smashes forecasts

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BRASILIA, March 25 (Reuters) - Brazil’s labor market burst back into life in February, adding a net 173,139 payroll jobs in February driven in large part by gains in civil construction and manufacturing of intermediary goods, data from the Economy Ministry showed on Monday.

That was more than double the same month last year, five times the previous month and twice as much as economists in a Reuters poll had forecast.

It will provide welcome relief for President Jair Bolsonaro, who has mostly faced negative economic indicators and seen the economy lose momentum since he took office in January.

“There are signs that the rebound in job growth will be consistent this year,” Rogerio Marinho, secretary of social security and labor at the Economy Ministry, told reporters in Brasilia on Monday.

Official unemployment statistics for the month of February will be released on Friday. The last figures showed a rise in the unemployment rate to 12 percent in the three months to January, the first increase in almost a year.

The persistent high degree of slack in the labor market has reflected the wider economy’s failure to recover significantly from the 2015-16 recession, economists say. Growing doubts about the progress of pension reform, seen as critical to reviving that recovery, have added to the downbeat sentiment lately.

But the 173,139 jobs created last month blew the median forecast in a Reuters poll of 82,000 jobs out of the water. It was the best result for the month of February since 2014, and the sixth-strongest level of formal job creation for any month since 1992, the Economy Ministry said. (Reporting by Mateus Maia Writing by Jamie McGeever Editing by Susan Thomas)