Coronavirus —

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Sao Paulo . – Nearly eight million people in Brazil have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures released Tuesday by the country’s statistics agency.

The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) published its report for the quarter showing that a record 7.8 million people lost their jobs in the country. Of these, 5.8 million were workers in the informal sector.

The institute calculated that the number of people still working in Brazil at the end of May was only 49.5%. “For the first time in the series of historical surveys, the level of occupancy was less than 50%,” IBGE said in a statement.

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Since data collection began in 2012, “this has never happened,” IBGE analyst Adriana Beringuy said in a statement.

“This means that less than half of the working-age population is working,” added Beringuy. The legal minimum age to work in Brazil is 14.

The total number of Brazilians in the workforce is 85.9 million, a contraction of 8.3% compared to the same period last year.

And the unemployment rate in Latin America’s largest economy rose to 12.3% at the end of May, affecting 12.7 million people, the highest level since the same three-month period in 2018.

Economists point to a historic economic downturn in Brazil due to the coronavirus, which has decimated an already struggling economy.

The Brazilian Central Bank estimates a 6.4% drop in GDP for 2020, while the International Monetary Fund is more pessimistic and predicts a 9.1% drop for this year.

Coronavirus cases in Brazil continue to skyrocket daily. The country has recorded more than 1.3 million cases of the disease according to Johns Hopkins University, the second highest number in the world behind the United States.