LIMA, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Unemployment in Latin America and the Caribbean likely fell slightly this year to its lowest rate ever, but is largely a result of workers scrapping job searches, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said Tuesday.
In the first nine months of 2013, the urban jobless rate was 6.3 percent, down from 6.4 percent in the same period last year, the ILO said in an annual labor report released in Lima.
That means some 14.8 million people trying to find work in the region were not able to do so by the end of the third quarter, the ILO said.
The United Nations agency estimated the rate for all of 2013 would also be 6.3 percent.
The ILO warned that slower economic growth in Latin America this year could reverse strong progress made over the past decade in reducing unemployment. Ten years ago the jobless rate was 11.1 percent.
In 2014 the unemployment rate will likely plateau instead of falling if the region's economy grows 3.1 percent as forecast by the International Monetary Fund, the ILO said.
"The behavior of the labor market is not negative, but it is worrisome," regional director of the ILO, Elizabeth Tinoco, said in the report.
Tinoco cited salaries rising less than in previous years, stubborn levels of informal work, productivity below the global average and many young people without jobs in cities.
The ILO said this year the region's economy is expected to grow 2.7 percent, the slowest pace in the past decade.
Latin American countries rely heavily on exports of raw materials to fuel economic growth, and global prices for many commodities have fallen on weaker demand from China and the United States.
The United Nations economic body for Latin America, ECLAC, has said the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean will probably grow 2.6 percent this year, and 3.2 percent in 2014.