Unemployment rate rises to 3.5%

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Unemployment rate rises to 3.5%


Despite official efforts to boost job numbers, the unemployment rate in October climbed 0.3 percentage points from last year to 3.5 percent as people in their 40s and 50s faced challenges in the market, according to Statistics Korea on Wednesday.

The 3.5 percent rate is the highest for any October since 2005, in which the same rate was reported. The number is a measure of unemployed people as a percentage of the total labor force.

In September, the unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, a 13-year high.

Compared to a last year, the number of new hires in October grew 64,000. The year-on-year growth of new hires for the past four months came in below 100,000 - 5,000 in July, 3,000 in August and 45,000 in September.

“The increase in the number of new hires in October was higher than in the previous couple of months, which may indicate that the situation is improving. But it’s not,” said Bin Hyun-joon, an official in charge of employment statistics at Statistics Korea. “Overall, the employment situation is flagging, with the employment rate dropping for nine straight months.”

New hires in Korea have historically totaled between 100,000 and 400,000 a month. The total number of employed in the country as of October was 27.09 million.

The employment rate, the ratio of the employed to the working-age population, for October stood at 61.2 percent, down 0.2 percentage points from last year. The number has been in decline for nine consecutive months, since February. That is the longest decline since the 27 months between January 2008 and March 2010.

The silver lining lies in the fact that the employment rate among those aged between 25 and 29 was the highest since the data was first compiled in 1982, at 70.2 percent. Those who were employed as of October from that age group totaled 2.426 million, up 102,000 from a year earlier.

Statistics Korea explained that for the age group hiring was strong in health care, construction and IT and communications sectors.

The number of those in their 40s who were employed in October totaled 6.645 million, down 152,000 from last year The figure for those in their 50s increased 6,000 over the one-year period to a total of 6.49 million. The number of employed in their 30s decreased 74,000 year on year.

The job market for those in their 40s has been challenging. People in their 50s, whose employment outlook had been good, faced hardship in October, especially those working in retail and wholesale and at restaurants, according to Statistics Korea.

By industry, the number of jobs in construction, agriculture and fisheries, health care, social welfare services and ICT increased, whereas those in wholesale, retail, accommodations and restaurants declined in October year on year. The situation in the accommodation and restaurant categories was particularly bad, with the total falling 97,000, or 3.2 percent, from a year earlier, the most dramatic year-on-year decline since 2013.

In October, the Ministry of Economy and Finance promised to create 59,000 jobs by the end of the year.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]
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