Skip to navigationSkip to content

Only 4.6% of Brazilian workers are unemployed. Why that’s not necessarily a good thing

A construction worker carries a beam at the top of a building in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Tuesday, September 30, 2003. Brazil's economy will probably grow less than 1 percent this year, representing the worst performance for South America's largest country in five years, according to the Central Bank. The growth forecast was a revision of a previous estimate predicting anemic 1.5 percent for this year, the same as last year's rate. If the more pessimistic forecast proves true, this year would be the mostdismal for Brazilian economic growth since 1998.
AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini
Construction jobs abounded in December.
By Jacob Albert
brazilPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Brazil’s unemployment dropped to 4.6% in December—the lowest level on record and down from 4.9% in November. And though December’s unemployment came in a bit higher than analysts expected, that 4.6% is a milestone of sorts given that it breached the previous record-low of 4.7% unemployment in December of 2011.

After two years of economic stagnation—GDP grew a mere 1% in 2012—Brazil’s government has been working aggressively to stimulate growth. With those policy effects seeping into the economy, companies have stepped up hiring in anticipation of an economic rebound, driving unemployment down. Here’s a look at that trend:


Brazil’s stimulus program has cut borrowing costs to record lows, increased tax breaks, and boosted public spending, putting the country’s GDP on track to increase some 3.2% this year.

The sectors that saw the greatest proportional hiring increases in 2012 were domestic services (a 7.6% increase), construction (4.6%), business (4.2%) and the industrial sector (3.6%). On average, wages increased 3.2% in 2012.

The downside of nearly full-employment and rising wages is persistently high inflation, which has not dipped below the central bank’s target of 4.5% in nearly two and a half years. High consumption levels supported by low unemployment have buoyed demand for domestic credit, which plays a worryingly growing role in the Brazilian economy.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.