Unemployment down to 13.9% in last quarter of 2020

The country, however, closed out the year with 13.4 mi seeking a job

Published in 01/03/2021 - 10:29 By Ana Cristina Campos - Rio de Janeiro

Unemployment in Brazil sank to 13.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, after reaching 14.6 percent in the previous quarter. However, the average unemployment rate for last year was 13.5 percent—the highest since 2012—which accounts for some 13.4 million people looking for a job in the country.

The result for the year breaks a streak of declines initiated in 2018, when it stood at 12.3 percent. In 2019, joblessness was 11.9 percent. The data come from the Continuous PNAD (National Household Sample Survey), published last Friday (Feb. 26) by the government’s statistics agency IBGE.

This response from the labor market in the fourth quarter comes as no surprise, says survey analyst Adriana Beringuy. “The decline in the rate late in the year is seasonal behavior stemming from the traditional increase in temporary admissions and in sales in trade. It is interesting to note that the labor market exhibited this reaction even during a pandemic year,” she states in a note.

The result in the fourth quarter was pulled by the growth in employment in nearly all activity groups: agriculture (3.4%), industry (3.1%), construction (5.2%), trade (5.2%), lodging and food and drinks (6.5%), information and communication (5.8%) other services (5.9%), household services (6.7%), public administration (2.9%). Transport was the only seen to hold steady.


The IBGE analyst mentioned that labor market conditions deteriorated last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The need for social distancing measures for curbing the spread of the virus temporarily interrupted certain economic activities, which also played a role in people’s decision to look for a job. After these measure were loosened, a larger number of people went back to seeking employment, exerting pressure on the labor market,” she pointed out.

In one year’s time, IBGE reported, the employed population decreased by 7.3 million people, reaching the lowest amount in the yearly series.

“We left the highest employed population in the series in 2019 with 93.4 million people to 86.1 million in 2020—a sharp plunge in a rather short period, which made a significant impact on the indicators in the survey. For the first time in the yearly series, less than half of the population at working age had a job in the country. In 2020, the level of employment was 49.4 percent,” the researcher declared.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Denise Griesinger / Nira Foster

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