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BRASILIA, Jan 31 AFP

February 01 2013, 03:40AM

Brazil's jobless rate dipped to 4.6 per cent in December, its lowest level since record keeping began in 2002 in Latin America's economic behemoth, official statistics show.

The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) said the December result compared with 4.9 per cent in November and 4.7 per cent in December 2011.

The average unemployment rate throughout 2012 also reached a record low at 5.5 per cent, down from six per cent the previous year and a high of 12.4 per cent in 2003.

The official unemployment statistics cover the country's six main metropolitan areas.

IBGE also reported that 49.2 per cent of employees held formal jobs last month - as opposed to jobs in the underground, tax-evading economy. That was up from 48.5 per cent in December 2011 and 39.7 per cent 10 year ago.

The average salary rose 3.2 per cent between December 2011 and December 2012 to the equivalent of $US900 ($A870) a month.

Last week the government said the economy created 1.3 million formal jobs in 2012, the lowest figure in the past three years.

Brazil, the world's sixth largest economy, is spending billions of dollars to upgrade its creaking infrastructure and build or renovate facilities that will host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Rio summer Olympics.