UPDATE 1-Brazil jobless insurance claims suggest light at end of unemployment tunnel

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BRASILIA, July 22 (Reuters) - New unemployment insurance claims in Brazil fell in the first two weeks of July, official figures showed on Wednesday, suggesting the labor market may slowly be emerging from the depths of the coronavirus crisis.

New claims totaled 288,845 in the first two weeks of July, according to an Economy Ministry presentation, down 4.3% from the preceding two-week period and 1.9% lower from the same period a year ago.

It was the first time this year since early April that new claims have been lower than the same period last year, the presentation showed, with the gap steadily narrowing since the record surge in late April and early May.

The rise in the first two weeks of July brought the total number of claims in January to mid-July to 4.24 million, up 13.4% from last year, the ministry said.

Some 67.7% of the claims in the first two weeks of July were done online, indicating that the month will have the lowest share of online claims since March as social isolation and quarantine measures ease further.

Central bank president Roberto Campos Neto said on Wednesday that recent retail, energy consumption and industrial data show the economy continues to recover, and that the bank’s official forecast for a 6.4% downturn this year is too pessimistic.

Brazil’s unemployment rate in the three months to May stood at 12.9%. Official unemployment data for June will be released next week. (Reporting by Jamie McGeever Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)