Total employment rises for the first time in 13 months
Gross employment increased for the first time in more than a year in March, another sign that economic recovery is on the way.
In March, the total number of people working in the country was 26.9 million, up 314,000 on year, according to Statistics Korea. It is the first on-year rise in 13 months.
The base effect helped boost the number, as employment dropped dramatically last year at the outset of the pandemic.
The positive figure breaks the second longest streak of on-year declines in total employment. Between January 1998 and April 1999, the figure fell for 16 consecutive months.
"The eased social distancing regulations applied since Feb. 15 and last year's sharp decline in March was considered to have resulted in the improved job figures," said Chung Dong-myung, head of the statistics agency's social statistics planning division.
The improvement in the job figures continued to heavily depend on government-led programs with manufacturing and services lagging as the pandemic wears on. Restaurants and hotels have been especially hard hit.
In health and social welfare, 171,000 more people were employed on year, a 7.6 percent jump. Public administrative, national defense and social security jobs, which are government jobs, increased by 94,000, or 9 percent.
In education, 32,000 more people were employed, up 1.8 percent, and in construction, the increase was 92,000, or 4.7 percent.
Manufacturing employment dropped by 11,000, or 0.3 percent. A total of 4.4 million people are employed in manufacturing, 16.4 percent of all employment.
In February, 270,000 manufacturing jobs were lost.
In March, 168,000 wholesale and retail jobs were lost, a 4.8 percent drop, while Statistics Korea reports 280,000 fewer restaurant and lodging jobs, which is more jobs lost than the 232,000 in February.
Total employment of people in their 30s and 40s continued to decline, while the number of people in their 20s employed rose, for the first time in 14 months. Young people had trouble finding jobs during the pandemic.
In March, 130,000 more people in their 20s were employed compared to the same period last year, with 65,000 more of them working in science and technology, up 5.7 percent on year, and 31,000 more in ICT, up 3.7 percent.
More people in their 50s were employed on year in March, the first rise in 12 months. The figure was up 13,000.
In the 60s age group, 408,000 more were employed, up from the 212,000 rise in February.
A total of 170,000 fewer people in their 30s were employed on year, and 85,000 fewer in their 40s.
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki celebrated the rise but remains cautious as Covid-19 infections remain stubbornly high. On Wednesday, 731 more people were infected, the most daily cases since 869 on Jan.7.
"We're at an important point that will determine if we're heading towards a fourth wave," Hong said. "The biggest risk to the job market is the quarantine situation, and therefore we should take it seriously."
He said the government will execute job measures and create 260,000 jobs, as detailed in this year's supplementary budget.
"We will work on improving jobs and on the economic rebound through more active communication with companies."
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]