(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s jobless rate climbed for a second consecutive month this year, evidencing that Latin America’s largest economy is losing momentum and complicating President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s ambitious growth agenda.

Official data released Friday showed the national unemployment rate increased to 8.6% in the three months through February, slightly below the 8.7% median estimate from analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Some 9.2 million people are out of work, the national statistics agency said.

The slowdown represents a significant threat to Lula’s campaign promise to improve living conditions in Latin America’s biggest economy. In response, the leftist leader is pushing the central bank to lower borrowing costs, which he claims are higher than needed. Policymakers are more optimistic about growth prospects and say that current interest-rate levels are needed to keep consumer-price growth in check.

Read more: Brazil Central Bank Sees Economy Growing Faster Than Forecast 

--With assistance from Giovanna Serafim.

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