July unemployment remained steady at 3.5%

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July unemployment remained steady at 3.5%

Korea’s jobless rate remained unchanged in July from a year earlier amid some signs of recovery in the manufacturing sector, government data showed Wednesday.

The unemployment rate stood at 3.5 percent last month, staying flat from the same month last year, according to the report compiled by Statistics Korea. From a month earlier, it dropped 0.3 percentage points.

The number of employed people reached 26.92 million in July, up 313,000 from a year earlier, compared to a five-month low of a 301,000 gain tallied the previous month.

The unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 29, was 9.3 percent, slightly up from 9.2 percent a year earlier but down from June’s 10.5 percent.

The employment rate rose 0.3 percentage points to 61.5 percent last month from a year earlier, with the corresponding figure for young people also gaining 0.2 percentage points to 43.8 percent.

The statistics office said an upturn in employment by the manufacturing sector, which accounts for a fifth of the country’s total hiring, made up for a loss in retail and accommodations. Some 4.5 million workers were employed by manufacturers in July, up 50,000 from a year earlier, continuing the positive year-on-year growth for two months in a row. The monthly figure had been in negative terrain for 11 straight months since July last year as Asia’s fourth-largest economy struggled with faltering exports.

But the sector’s employment made a turnaround in June for the first time in 11 months as Korean exports, a key economic driver, posted an eighth consecutive month of growth since November last year on the back of rising global trade.

“The employment of the manufacturing sector partly reflects a base effect from last year,” said Bin Hyun-joon, head of the agency’s employment statistics division. “But also, major industries, such as carmakers, showed clear signs of recovery thanks to stellar overseas sales.”

On the other hand, the number of new jobs offered by hotels and restaurants fell 18,000 year on year to 2.3 million last month, while those by local retailers and wholesalers lost 12,000 to 3.76 million in July. These sectors were directly hit by a decrease in Chinese tourists, following Beijing’s ban on group tours to Korea in retaliation for Seoul’s deployment of a U.S. missile defense system.

According to separate government data, the number of Chinese visitors tumbled 67.8 percent in July, extending its losing streak to five straight months.

The Finance Ministry said it will make all-out efforts to ease the tightened job market by implementing the 11 trillion won ($9.7 billion) supplementary budget aimed at creating some 12,000 new jobs. The extra budget bill was approved by the National Assembly in late July after months of political debate over the effectiveness of additional government spending.

“The government will do its best to use the extra budget as fast as possible and push forward with job-oriented economic policies in a way to improve the country’s employment condition,” the ministry said in a release.

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