* Lowest rate for March since data series started in 2002
* Real wages drop 0.2 percent from February
SAO PAULO, April 25 (Reuters) - Brazil’s unemployment rate rose less than expected in March and remained near record lows, the latest sign of a tight job market that has supported economic growth but also stoked inflation.
Brazil’s jobless rate rose to 5.7 percent in March from 5.6 percent in February, government statistics agency IBGE said on Thursday.
That was the lowest rate for the month since the current data series started in 2002. The number was also below the median forecast of 5.9 percent in a Reuters survey of 25 economists.
Brazil’s jobless rate is not seasonally adjusted and usually rises in the first months of the year as businesses lay off temporary workers following the holiday season.
The report from IBGE showed that the number of Brazilians with jobs in the six major metropolitan areas surveyed remained unchanged from February at 23 million people. The number rose 1.2 percent in March from the same month a year earlier.
The tally of people who unsuccessfully looked for work was little changed from February and dropped 8.5 percent from the same month a year earlier, to 1.4 million.
Real wages, or salaries discounted for inflation, fell 0.2 percent from February to an average of 1,855.40 reais ($927) a month. They rose 0.6 percent from the year-earlier period.
The central bank, which lifted interest rates this month for the first time since mid-2011, said it will remain “especially vigilant” to keep consumer prices under control.
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 so-called informal sector.