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Brazil unemployment dips, but sets record in 2020

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In this file photo taken on June 11, 2019 unemployed people look for job opportunities at a governmental workers service department in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Brazil's unemployment rate dipped in the fourth quarter, but set an annual record in 2020 with a monthly average of 13.5 percent as the coronavirus pandemic battered Latin America's biggest economy, officials said Friday.

The jobless rate was 13.9 percent for the period from October to December, said the national statistics institute, IBGE, which measures the indicator in sliding three-month intervals.

That was down from 14.1 percent for September-November and the all-time high of 14.6 percent for July-September.

But unemployment remains a major concern as Brazil struggles to bounce back from the economic havoc of Covid-19 and contain a second wave that threatens to be worse than the first.

The yearly average jobless rate was the highest since the current measurement was introduced in 2012. In 2019, the rate was 11.9 percent.

"For the first time in the annual series, less than half the working-age population was occupied in the country," IBGE analyst Adriana Beringuy said in a statement.

"In 2020, the level was 49.4 percent," including non-workers and those who had given up looking for work, she said.

Brazil's death toll from Covid-19 passed 250,000 Thursday, the second-highest worldwide, after the United States.

President Jair Bolsonaro faces criticism for flouting expert advice on handling the pandemic.

The country of 212 million people is struggling with vaccine shortages and a highly contagious variant of the virus that emerged in the Amazon and is spreading fast.

This has been the deadliest week yet of the pandemic in Brazil, with a daily average of 1,149 deaths over the past seven days, according to health ministry figures.

Experts warn that a large number of health care systems across the country are now reaching the breaking point simultaneously.

Analysts polled by Brazil's central bank predict the economy will make a modest recovery this year, with growth of 3.29 percent -- though that is down 0.2 percentage point from a month ago.

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