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Brazil's Recession The Longest And Deepest In Its History, New Figures Show

A man reads job advertisements in January 2017, in downtown Sao Paulo. Brazil is facing an unemployment crisis.

Brazil's recession was already of historic proportions. Today, government figures confirm that it has grown even worse.

The economy last year actually dipped more sharply than expected. The national gross domestic product contracted by 3.6 percent in 2016, statistics agency IBGE said Tuesday.

"The numbers for 2015 were slightly worse," NPR's Philip Reeves reports from Brazil. "Added together, this means Latin America's biggest country — once one of the world's fastest growing economies — has undergone the longest and deepest recession since records began."

The country's economy is "now 8% smaller than it was in December 2014," according to the BBC.

Philip explains what's driving the economic trouble:

"The downturn's been fueled by a fall in commodity prices but also by corruption scandals and political turmoil. Nearly 13 million Brazilians are without jobs; government departments are struggling to find funds for public services."

Discontent over the dismal economy contributed to last year's impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff.

New president Michel Temer "says the first signs of recovery have already appeared," as Phil reports. But he adds that "economists tend to strike a more cautious note, saying that any recovery this year will likely be slight."

Some economists are even more pessimistic, such as Carlos Kawall, the chief economist at Banco Safra. "We see zero growth in 2017, or maybe just a little bit above that," Kawall told Reuters. "We should not see any big recovery this year; we will have to wait until 2018."

The unemployment crisis is so staggering that the BBC has this comparison: "It is as if the entire population of a country like Greece or Portugal were now looking for jobs and not finding anything."

The broadcaster adds that there are signs of optimism in the country's stabilizing monthly inflation rates and falling interest rates: "This could fuel consumption and investment and speed up the country's recovery."

And as Reuters notes, the crushing recession "has not been marked by the financial upheaval seen in other crises in the country's turbulent economic past." Those include "sovereign debt crises, capital flight and hyperinflation, not of which happened during the current slump."

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