South Korea sees number of employed rise fastest in 22 years

Asia’s fourth-largest economy saw seasonally adjusted unemployment rate slide to 3.6 percent in January.

South Korea economy
South Korea's number of employed has risen at the sharpest pace in nearly 22 years [File: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

South Korea’s unemployment rate edged down in January, with the number of people employed rising at the sharpest pace in nearly 22 years, though the increase was mainly due to a low base and was supported by the government’s fiscal spending.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate slid to 3.6 percent in January, versus 3.8 percent in December, Statistics Korea data showed, while some 1,135,000 jobs were added, the most since March 2000.

The country lost jobs for a 12th straight month from March 2020 to Feb 2021, and the number of employed people fell at the sharpest pace in more than two decades in January 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on the labour market.

The breakdown of January data showed jobs were mostly added in healthcare and social services — about 250,000 — while those in accommodation facilities, restaurants, transportation and warehouses rose a combined 249,000.

Strict curbs

Those in the wholesale and retail industry continued to shrink due to surging COVID-19 cases and strict restrictions to fight the virus.

Wednesday’s data comes as the country’s presidential candidates formally began campaigning for the March election in what is seen to be the tightest race in 20 years between the two main parties.

The labour market remains a fundamental challenge for the candidates, as the country continues to report record COVID-19 cases that could put a greater burden on business and public activities.

To shore up the economy, the government has allocated about a third of total government expenditure for welfare and jobs. It also plans to spend about 70 percent of the annual fiscal budget in the first half of 2022.

The country reported a daily record of 90,443 new coronavirus cases for Tuesday, up from 57,177 the day before, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Source: Reuters