By Asher Levine
SAO PAULO, March 28 (Reuters) - Brazil's unemployment rate rose slightly in February but remained near a record low, the latest sign of a tight job market that is stoking inflation as the government struggles to rein in rising consumer prices.
Government data released on Thursday showed Brazil's jobless rate rose in February to 5.6 percent from 5.4 percent in January.
The number was slightly below the median forecast of 5.7 percent in a Reuters survey of 21 economists. The estimates ranged from 5.5 percent to 6.0 percent.
Brazil's jobless rate is not seasonally adjusted and usually rises in the first months of the year as businesses lay off temporary workers following the holiday season.
Unemployment is still near record lows in Brazil, with the tight labor market in some areas contributing to inflation pressure. Brazil's central bank earlier on Thursday raised its inflation forecasts for 2013 and 2014, reaffirming previous signals that an interest rate hike could be on its way this year.
The report from government statistics agency IBGE showed that the number of Brazilians with jobs in the six major metropolitan areas fell 0.7 percent from January to 23 million people. The number rose 1.6 percent in February from the same month a year earlier.
The number of people who unsuccessfully looked for work was little changed from January and the year earlier at 1.4 million.
Real wages, or salaries discounted for inflation, rose 1.2 percent from January to an average of 1,849.50 reais ($924.75) a month. They rose 2.4 percent from the year-earlier period.
The unemployment rate, as calculated by the IBGE, tallies jobs in the formal sector, where employers are legally registered, as well as off-the books jobs in the so-called informal sector.
((For the IBGE's jobless report see: http://www.ibge.gov.br/home/presidencia/noticias/noticia_visualiza.php?id_noticia=2347&id_pagina=1))
($1 = 2.00 Brazilian reais)
(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and W Simon) Keywords: BRAZIL ECONOMY/JOBLESSNESS
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