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New jobs rebound but are far short of averages in the past

Dec 13,2018
Some 165,000 new jobs were created in November compared to a year earlier, the largest number in 10 months, according to Statistics Korea on Wednesday.

The last time new hire figures were robust was in January, when 334,000 jobs were created.

It was the first time in five months that the number of new jobs exceeded 100,000. In July, only 5,000 new jobs were created, and for the next four months, that number was stuck below 100,000.

The latest job report showed that the job market continues to be hobbled by this year’s steep minimum wage hike. Last year’s monthly average for new hires was 325,000. November’s number was below the government’s monthly target of 180,000.

The situation is unlikely to turn around as next year, when the minimum wage will again be raised, will add additional burdens on small businesses. Next year’s hike is 10.9 percent to 8,350 won ($7.39) per hour. This year, the minimum wage was raised 16.4 percent to 7,530 won per hour.

Jobs in the health and welfare sector grew 8.2 percent compared to a year earlier, accounting for 164,000 new jobs, while the information and telecommunication sector saw an 11.2 percent surge, or 87,000 jobs. Jobs in agriculture and fishery were increased 6.2 percent, or by 84,000 jobs.

On the flip side, new jobs in the wholesale, retail and lodging and restaurant industries, which are sensitive to the minimum wage, continued to fall for the 12th consecutive month.

The number of new jobs in the security and building management industry fell 6.6 percent from a year ago, a loss of 91,000 jobs.

Wholesale and retail saw 69,000 jobs disappear, a 1.8 percent decline. Lodging and restaurant businesses lost 59,000 new jobs, a 2.6 percent decrease.

The number of jobs in manufacturing shrunk 2 percent compared to the same month a year ago, signifying 91,000 jobs lost. New jobs in manufacturing have shrunk for eight consecutive months.

While people hired on regular terms continue to steadily grow, contract workers, mostly working in minimum wage-sensitive businesses, continued to see losses.

Last month some 343,000 jobs created for regular employee positions, but 116,000 new contract positions vanished.

When asked if the improvement in last month’s job figures was the result of temporary job openings in the public sector, the official statistics agency said it was difficult to say.

“When looking at the figure for public administrative jobs, there’s not much difference between October and November,” said Bin Hyun-joon, director of the employment statistics division at Statistics Korea. “It’s hard to say that the short-term job-creating policies have had an influence.”

Last month the number of new jobs created in the public sector grew 2.9 percent, or by 32,000 jobs, nearly the same as the 31,000 new jobs that were added in October.

The statistics agency director was also uncertain if last month’s improvement will be lasting.

“While the number of new jobs has gone up, it is difficult to predict if this trend will continue,” Bin said.

Over the weekend, lawmakers from the two biggest parties - the Democratic Party and Liberty Korea Party - passed next year’s 469.6 trillion won government budget, which cut 600 billion won earmarked by the Moon Jae-in administration for jobs.

The government on Tuesday decided to frontload 70 percent of next year’s budget spending in the first six months of the year. It was the first time since 2013 that more than 70 percent of the budget will be allocated in the first half.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]


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