Job growth still suffers from MERS outbreak

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Job growth still suffers from MERS outbreak

The Korean job market improved marginally last month, as the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) continued to linger over employment prospects, government data showed.

A monthly report by Statistics Korea showed Wednesday the number of people employed in July stood at about 26.3 million, an increase of 326,000 from the same month a year earlier.

The monthly rise in employment has been hovering around 300,000 jobs this year, lower than the average job growth of about 530,000 per month in 2014.

In April, the number of employed people rose by only 216,000, the weakest growth since February 2013, when only 201,000 more people found jobs.

The job market cooled off due to the outbreak of MERS, although the Korean government declared on July 26 “a de facto end” of the spread of the virus in the country.

The service industry was hit hardest by the outbreak, according to the data. The number of people employed in accommodations, restaurants, wholesale and retail increased by a mere 85,000 in July, a drop from 275,000 additional jobs a year earlier.

The electricity, shipping, telecommunications and finance sectors were also hit by the outbreak. The number of people employed in those sectors rose year-on-year by only 18,000 jobs in July.

Meanwhile, the job market in the manufacturing sector improved from June. The number of people in manufacturing grew by 170,000 people in July, from 133,000 in June.

“Although the job growth is rebounding in manufacturing, the increase in new hires in the service industry is still slow due to the negative aftermath of MERS,” an analysis from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said. “With the end of … MERS, the market is expected to improve in the future, but there is still uncertainty.”

The total employment rate held at 61.1 percent from a year earlier. The employment rate for people aged 15 to 64, classified as “economically active populations,” rose 0.3 percent to 66.3 percent on a yearly basis, the highest since Statistics Korea started collecting the data in its current form.

The youth unemployment rate, for jobless Koreans aged 15 to 29, stood at 9.4 percent, an increase from 8.9 percent in July 2014.

“In an aging society, the population aged over 60 is increasingly seeking jobs as well,” said Shim Won-bo, a Statistics Korea official. “Also, the high youth unemployment rate is because young Koreans are increasingly preparing for a civil servant test, a stable job in Korea, rather than applying to a private company.”


BY KIM HEE-JIN [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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