Chile July-Sept jobless rate steady at multi-year low


SANTIAGO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Chile's jobless rate for the July to September period remained steady ata multi-year low of 5.7 percent, as expected, the governmentsaid on Wednesday.

Increased employment in the manufacturing and real estateindustries offset a decrease in the agriculture and constructionsectors, the INE statistics agency reported.

Unemployment has never dipped below 5.7 percent sinceChile's statistics institute changed its methodology inJanuary-March 2010.

Finance Minister Felipe Larrain said later on Wednesday thefigure is the lowest rate in at least three decades for theJuly-September period, calling it "excellent news."

"I think we're close to full employment," Larrain said.

While unemployment has fallen steeply, experts say highincome inequality, low salaries and underemployment remainsignificant problems in the Andean country.

"It's hard to think the unemployment rate can fall further,perhaps there can be a marginal downward effect if seasonalfactors dominate," Larrain added.

Agricultural employment typically picks up as the SouthernHemisphere's summer rolls in, but slowing economic growth inChile will likely dampen the effect.

Chile's economy has grown robustly under outgoing presidentSebastian Pinera, in part due to strong prices for top exportcopper, but growth is easing as a weakening global economy takesits toll on the open, export-dependent nation.

The central bank unexpectedly cut rates to 4.75 percentearlier this month to stimulate economic growth, and morereductions are eyed.

The weakened right-wing coalition's candidate is expected tofare poorly in next month's presidential election.

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