Job growth slowest in 26 months
A monthly report by state-controlled Statistics Korea showed the number of people with jobs rose about 216,000 in April, the slowest monthly growth since February 2013.
The unemployment rate for those between 15 and 29 hit 10.2 percent. Although the figure was down 0.5 percentage point from a month earlier, it was the highest recorded in April since 1999.
The year-on-year growth in number of newly employed or reemployed people has dropped since February 2014, when it surpassed 830,000.
“The slowdown in job growth is mainly due to temporary factors like worsening weather conditions,” said a Finance Ministry report following the data on Wednesday. “In April, most of regions in the country were soaked with rainfall for more than five days in a row, leading to fewer new jobs in agriculture, construction, wholesale and retail, food service and accommodations.”
“If we exclude these factors, we assume the number of newly employed people would have surpassed 300,000,” the report said.
But the so-called real jobless rate - a de facto measure of joblessness that includes those preparing for employment while studying or working part-time - still remained high, at 11.3 percent in April.
The de facto unemployment rate has surpassed 11 percent since January this year, rising from the 10-percent level last year. It peaked in February at 12.5 percent, the highest since the government started to collect data in its current form.
The number of jobless youth also jumped year-on-year. The data said the number of unemployed people aged 15 to 29 in April jumped about 19,000 from a year earlier.
The overall employment rate stood at 60.3 percent in April, dropping 0.3 percentage point from a year earlier.
Despite the latest gloomy data on Korean economy, Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan said the Korean economy is still rebounding.
At a meeting with senior officials on Monday, Choi said the Korean economy is still coming back, though he admitted that the rebound “is not that strong.”
“While the major economic figures on industrial output, consumption and investment in facilities are fluctuating, uncertainty is increasing in terms of economic outlook and current situation,” he said.
Earlier in May, Choi effectively withdrew his rosy outlook on the Korean economy, saying the growth rate for the economy this year would maintain last year’s level, around 3.3 percent.
The minister had been positive since December 2014, when the Finance Ministry announced 2015 economic growth would rise to 3.8 percent.
The ministry’s downgrade came after the central bank and the International Monetary Fund lowered their forecasts for Korean economic growth. The Bank of Korea cut its outlook from 3.4 percent to 3.1 percent, while the fund also trimmed from 3.7 percent to 3.3 percent.
Recent data fueled worries over the long-term depression in Korean economy. The consumer price index in March rose only 0.4 percent in April from a year earlier, the slowest pace in 16 years.
The consumer inflation rate, despite a spike in cigarette prices, remained near-zero since December 2014 when it first dipped below 1 percent.
Production in mining and manufacturing for March also dropped 0.4 percent from a month earlier.
BY KIM HEE-JIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]