(Adds comments from Alshop president in paragraphs 4-7)
SAO PAULO, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Sales at malls in Brazil fell in the Christmas period for a second straight year, in a sign of low consumer confidence in the face of unemployment and high borrowing costs.
Christmas sales declined 3 percent this year from a year ago, Alshop, an industry group, said in a statement on Tuesday. Year-to-date mall sales totaled 140.5 billion reais ($42.9 billion), a 3.2 percent nominal fall from 2015 and the first drop in 12 years, Alshop said.
Over the Christmas period, malls hired 30 percent fewer temporary workers than last year, the result of a reduction in the number of stores in operation and a drop in customers, Alshop said.
“We expect things to improve next year because they cannot get any worse,” Nabil Sahyoun, president of Alshop, told Reuters.
Measures to revive the economy will allow families to pay bills in arrears and help expand the offer of credit, he said, alluding to the recently-announced authorization for workers to withdraw funds from inactive severance accounts.
The move will inject about 30 billion reais ($9.1 billion) into the economy, the government said last week.
“Cutting interest rates at a pace faster than 25 basis points and deepening labor reforms will also be crucial,” Sahyoun said.
The workforce at shopping malls shrank by more than one-third to 1.3 million people this year from 2015.
Forty-two malls are under construction in Brazil and they are expected to begin operations over the next three years, according to an Alshop statement. ($1 = 3.2771 reais) (Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Alistair Bell)