Brazil shed five million jobs in the first quarter as Latin America's biggest economy felt the first effects of the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic, figures showed Thursday.

Unemployment rose to 12.6 percent, an increase of 1.4 percent on the previous quarter, according to Brazil's statistics institute IBGE.

“An indicator that reflects the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labor market – the working population – recorded a record drop of 5.2 percent in relation to the quarter ended in January, representing the loss of 4.9 million jobs," the IBGE said in a statement.

The worst hit sector was trade, which suffered a loss of 1.2 million jobs. The construction sector shed 885,000 jobs during the shutdown and domestic services were also badly hit, with 727,000 people losing their jobs.

The institute said nearly 13 million people are looking for work in the country, but noted a further five million people without work who have given up looking for jobs during the last quarter.

“These are people who for example are no longer looking for work because they do not have sufficient qualifications, because they are considered too young or too old or because there is no work for them in the locality," according to IBGE analyst Adriana Beringuy.

“This category has increased a lot." Tens of millions of Brazilians have been confined since late March as part of measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2020