Brazil’s unemployment down, but so are wages

unemployment brazil
Homeless people sitting on the steps of São Paulo’s Sé Cathedral. Photo:

Unemployment rates in Brazil have dropped to their lowest point since February 2020, on par with pre-pandemic levels. However, for a country that was already suffering from a previous generational recession when the coronavirus arrived, unemployment remains high (11.6 percent), and has been in the double digits since February 2016.

The data refers to the three-month period ending in November 2021 and reflects the beginning of a hiring spree of temporary employees typical of Brazil’s summer season.

Another negative piece of news is the fact that the average monthly earnings of Brazilian workers are down to the lowest in at least a decade, at BRL 2,444 (USD 452). The average is 13 percent below its July 2020 peak — which was fueled by a massive injection of cash from the coronavirus emergency salary program. 

Future data could see the trend reverse, as President Jair Bolsonaro launched a new aid program, replacing and expanding the world-renowned Bolsa Família scheme. He hopes that distributing benefits will create feel-good factors among voters and boost his re-election prospects.

“From the 3.2 million jobs added, 43 percent were informal,” says Adriana Beringuy, a researcher at the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. The numbers were considered to be positive, as they show some recovery for the formal labor market.