Brazil posts biggest formal job gain for July since 2012

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil posted its strongest July job growth in eight years, official figures showed on Friday, snapping four consecutive months of job losses as the country continued to relax the coronavirus-fighting lockdown measures from earlier in the year.

The addition of a net 131,010 formal jobs in July was driven by industry and construction, which together accounted for over 70% of the overall gains, followed by retail and agribusiness.

Services continued to shed jobs, the economy ministry said.

Over 1 million jobs were created, while 912,640 positions were lost.

July’s figures followed a downwardly-revised 19,579 formal job losses in June, and brings the net loss in the first seven months of the year to 1.1 million.

Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said he was “excited” by the “extraordinary” figures.

A ‘V-shaped’ recovery is possible, Guedes said, adding that the job numbers justified a recent wave of economists revising their 2020 gross domestic product forecasts upward.

“Revisions are now confirming that GDP may fall 4%, just over 4%, practically half of what had been predicted before,” he told reporters in Brasilia.

Work and Pensions Secretary Bruno Bianco said the government would extend for another two months a program that allows firms to reduce workers’ hours or suspend contracts, in return for keeping them on the payroll.

More than 16 million workers and 1.4 million employers have been involved in the program so far, Bianco said, adding that only 23.2 billion reais out its 51.6 billion reais budget had been spent.

The latest official unemployment statistics show the jobless rate rose to a three-year high of 13.3% in the three months to June. But underlying figures paint a far more precarious picture.

A record number of Brazilians are out of the workforce completely, a record low number as a share of the working population - less than 50% - have a job, and the underemployment rate surged to an all-time high.

Reporting by Marcela Ayres, Isabel Versiani and Jamie McGeever; editing by Diane Craft, Alistair Bell and Tom Brown