UPDATE 1-CORRECTED (OFFICIAL)-UPDATE 1-Brazil unemployment insurance claims jump as coronavirus impact hits

(Official correction of numbers in the 8th paragraph) (Add details, comment)

By Jamie McGeever

BRASÍLIA (Reuters) – Unemployment insurance claims in Brazil increased by almost 14% in the first two weeks of April of the previous fortnight, official figures released on Tuesday showed, reflecting the impact of coronavirus on jobs in Latin America’s largest economy.

This occurred after an increase of more than 10% from February to March, with the blockade and sudden interruption of economic activity that ended many of the gains and improvements in the labor market in the first two months of the year.

Ministry of Economy officials insisted that measures to reduce workers’ hours and wages during the pandemic are protecting jobs. Labor and Pensions Secretary Bruno Bianco said on Monday that up to 4 million jobs have been saved.

But at a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Labor Secretary Bruno Dalcolmo admitted that there will be a “considerable” loss of jobs in the coming months.

Dalcolmo also said that the government’s program to cut workers’ hours and wages will result in an average wage cut of around 15%.

According to a presentation by the Ministry of Economy on Tuesday, formal applications for unemployment insurance in the first two weeks of April totaled 267,693, an increase of 13.8% over the last two weeks of March.

However, the fall was 13.8% in relation to the same period of the previous year, while the accumulated total until mid-April fell 7.4%, with 1.86 million complaints.

But this is due to the strengthening of the labor market in the first two months of the year, when national unemployment was between 11% and 11.6%, almost a full percentage point below the same period in 2019.

Unemployment insurance claims in March this year increased 11% from February to 536,845, according to figures from the Ministry of Economy. (Reporting by Jamie McGeever)

Paula Fonseca