SEOUL, May 10 (Yonhap) — The number of people subscribing to state employment insurance rose in April by the highest figure since before the pandemic, the labor ministry said Monday.

According to the ministry, nearly 14.2 million people had employment insurance last month, up 422,000, or 3.1 percent, from April 2020.

The increase was the biggest since 428,000 in December 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began, and greater than 376,000 in February 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit the job market.

The ministry said last month’s increase could be attributed to export growth, restored consumer confidence and base effects.

Most industries, including manufacturing, services and the public sector, posted increased subscription numbers from a year earlier.

The hotel and restaurant industry, however, saw 15,000 fewer subscribers, apparently due to continued social distancing restrictions.

Meanwhile, last month’s payment of unemployment benefits exceeded 1 trillion won (US$897 million) for the third consecutive month at nearly 1.16 trillion won.

The employment insurance program was introduced in 1995 and provides relief to the unemployed while helping jobseekers develop their skills and employers retain their workforce.