Brazil's unemployment rate stuck at historic high 14.7%

BRASILIA, June 30 (Reuters) - Brazil's unemployment rate held steady at a historic high of 14.7% in the three months through April, figures showed on Wednesday, with the rate of deterioration in the labor market continuing to slow gradually from a year ago.

Although the unemployment rate was unchanged from the quarter ending in March, statistics agency IBGE's comparisons with the three months through January indicated a softer market amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rodolfo Margato, an economist at brokerage XP, said the labor market will continue to improve in the months ahead due to "increased mobility, rising business confidence and more favorable growth prospects for the labor intensive service sector."

That said, the labor force will only get back to "normal levels" in the second quarter of next year with the unemployment rate not falling below pre-pandemic levels until the second half of next year, he said.

The 14.7% unemployment rate is the highest since IBGE's series began in 2012, and as has consistently been the case for almost a year now, less than 50% of the working population have a job, the figures showed.

Alberto Ramos at Goldman Sachs calculated that the unemployment rate would have been over 20% had the rate of participation in the job market been the same as it was a year ago.

IBGE said that the number of people officially unemployed was 14.8 million, up 489,000 from the three months through January. There are now 3.3 million fewer Brazilians in work than before the pandemic struck over a year ago, IBGE said.

Some 85.9 million Brazilians had work in April, IBGE said, little changed from the previous quarter but down 3.7%, or 3.3 million people, from the same period a year earlier.

The number of people entirely out of the workforce held steady at 76.4 million, IBGE said, but that was up more than 5.5 million people, or 7.7%, from a year earlier.

The under-employment rate rose to 29.7% from 29.0% in the November-January period, IBGE said.

Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Nick Zieminski

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Jamie McGeever has been a financial journalist since 1998, reporting from Brazil, Spain, New York, London, and now back in the U.S. again. Focus on economics, central banks, policymakers, and global markets - especially FX and fixed income. Follow me on Twitter: @ReutersJamie