Where the jobs are: Brazil

@CNNMoney May 30, 2012: 3:09 PM ET

Sao Paulo (CNN) -- Looking for a job? Try moving to Brazil.

Just ten years ago, Brazilian professionals were fleeing the country in search of better jobs and higher pay elsewhere. But these days, white-collar workers from around the globe are pouring into Brazil to find work.

In 2011, the number of legal foreign workers jumped 57% to 1.51 million, according to the Justice Ministry.

Many of them are young professionals from the United States, Portugal and Spain lured by Brazil's booming consumer market and quickly expanding construction sector at a time when their own economies are suffering.

This year, Brazil overtook the United Kingdom as the world's sixth largest economy, fueled in part by big growth in domestic consumption as millions of people climbed out of poverty into the middle class.

Faced with record high unemployment at home, Spanish architect Miguel Serrano decided to leave the comfort of his parent's home in Sevilla and fly to Sao Paulo last year.

"I took a risk and came," said the 30-year-old.

Unemployment in Brazil is at historic lows, hovering around 6%, and qualified labor is often hard to come by.

"Construction is growing at an incredible rate here," Serrano told CNN. "The housing sector is so underdeveloped it still has a number of years left to keep growing."

In fact, the mortgage market in Brazil represents just 5% of the country's gross domestic product, compared with over 50% in many developed countries.

But Serrano has had to make sacrifices, as housing costs in the area are soaring. In the apartment he shares with three Brazilian architects, Serrano has to cut through the kitchen to get to his bedroom, formerly a maid's room and no bigger than a closet.

"I just use it to sleep. You can't do anything else in it."

Economic growth in Brazil has receded from its high mark of 7.5% in 2010, but is still chugging along at just under 3% a year. And many sectors are thriving.

American professionals are also making the pilgrimage south, lured by competitive salaries and a more vibrant workplace.

Josh Livingstone, a native New Yorker, moved to Sao Paulo with an international bank.

"It's a lot more exciting," he said while sharing beers with a handful of fellow expats at a local bar. "You sort of feel the energy, there's a lot more going on in terms of merges & acquisitions, which is where I work."

But life in sprawling Sao Paulo, home to nearly 20 million people in the greater metropolitan area, also has its down sides.

Newcomers complain about the notorious traffic, often dismal weather and, mostly, sky-high prices.

"I expected to come here and save a little money," Livingstone says. "But I did the math and I'm spending probably 20 percent more than I did in New York."

Brazil's bullish economy has also sparked a kind of reverse migration. Many Brazilians who left the country in search of a better life are coming home, from Portugal, Japan and the United States.

Jonathan Assayag's family migrated to Miami in 1992 when he was just a boy.

"Initially it was tough and the business that my parents decided that made sense for them was a 99 Cent store," he says.

A Harvard Business School graduate, Assayag tried to develop a startup in Silicon Valley, but finally concluded Brazil made more sense.

"The immediate reaction in my mind was, all this hard work that my family did to come over here, all that we fought for, and now I'm going to go back? It's going to break my mother's heart," he says.

But since returning to Sao Paulo last year, Assayag has launched an Internet startup -- an online eyewear business that should be fully operational in the next couple of months. To top of page

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