Job numbers aren’t good enough

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Job numbers aren’t good enough

The government has announced that the number of new hires last month increased by a whopping 685,000 compared to the same period last year. That’s good news given it marked the biggest surge in employment since the number hit 842,000 in March 2002. More good news is that the jobless rate also dropped to 2.9 percent in September from 3 percent in the same month last year.

If you closely examine the statistics, however, you get a different picture. First of all, the surprise increase in the number of newly hired last month is largely attributed to the so-called “base effect.” In other words, it’s thanks to a sharp reduction of new hires in September last year due to the three-day Chuseok holidays. Those who found jobs last month actually increased by a meager 36,000 compared to August.

Furthermore, most of those who found jobs turned out to be people in their 50s (326,000) and 60s (293,000), while the number of those in their 20s (56,000) continued to fall for six consecutive months. That means our youth are still having trouble finding jobs, while senior citizens got odd jobs in what amounts to a further deterioration of employment quality. The more serious problem is the grim prospect that our employment condition could worsen after October as confessed by Minister of Strategy and Finance Bahk Jae-wan: “Considering negative economic forecasts and the base effect, employment growth is expected to slow down after this month,” he said.

Some experts have already come up with a dismal prediction that our economic growth for the third quarter will likely hover around 1 percent, and the Business Survey Index for the manufacturing sector in the third quarter also turned out to be much lower than expected: 84 instead of the original forecast of 101. That means both the real growth rate and economic mood are plunging to the bottom. Under such circumstances, one can hardly expect a solid increase of jobs in the market.

However, presidential candidates from the ruling and opposition parties and independent Ahn Cheol-soo still stop short of offering solutions to the dilemma of addressing low economic growth and creating quality jobs. A decrease of new jobs from low growth will first impact ordinary citizens and the younger generation. Presidential hopefuls’ pledges to realize economic democratization and expand welfare benefits are only empty slogans to those struggling to find jobs.

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