Brazil May unemployment insurance claims surge to record high of almost 1 million

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Unemployment insurance claims in Brazil surged in May to the highest on record, Economy Ministry figures showed on Tuesday, as the economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic triggered almost 1 million new unemployment claims.

The 960,258 new claims marked a rise of 53% from the same month last year, the most since the series began 20 years ago, and brought the total number in the first five months of the year up to 3.3 million, the ministry said.

That was up 12.4% from the same period last year.

Official figures for April showed that unemployment in Latin America’s largest economy rose to 12.6% in the three months to April. That was less than expected, but the headline figure masked weaker details in the report.

A record number of people left the workforce, labor force participation fell to an all-time low, and the underemployment rate of 25.6% was a record high.

The unemployment insurance claims released on Tuesday suggest the labor market remained under severe pressure in May.

Some 76.5% of the claims made in May were done online, the ministry said, compared with 1.4% a year ago, because of social isolation and quarantine measures in place across Brazil.

Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Bernadette Baum