SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) — South Korea reported the first job additions in 13 months in March in the latest sign that the job market is recovering after a yearlong slump caused by the pandemic, data showed Wednesday.
The number of employed people reached 26.9 million last month, 314,000 more than a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.
It marked the first time that Asia’s fourth-largest economy added jobs since February 2020, when the number of employed people grew by 492,000.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the job market, with the country reporting job losses for the 12th straight month in February. For all of 2020, the nation shed 218,000 jobs, the most since 1998.
But the base effect and increased economic activity following relaxed social distancing rules helped create more jobs last month, according to the statistics agency.
On Feb. 15, the country lowered its tougher social distancing measures by one notch to Level 2, the third highest in its five-tier scheme, in the greater Seoul area and to Level 1.5 in other regions.
“Job losses in the face-to-face service sectors eased last month, affected by the relaxed virus curbs,” Jeong Dong-myeong, a senior Statistics Korea official, said at a press briefing.
The number of unemployed people came to 1.22 million last month, up 36,000 from the previous year, compared with an increase of 201,000 people in February as job positions increased on the back of state-backed job programs for senior citizens.
The country’s jobless rate inched up last month as people who previously had no willingness to work sought employment. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point on-year to 4.3 percent last month.
The unemployment rate for young adults — those aged between 15 and 29 — reached 10 percent in March, up 0.1 percentage point from a year earlier.
The number of non-economically active people or those who have no willingness to work, also declined for the first time in 13 months. The number of such people fell 54,000 on-year to 16.9 million last month.
Despite overall job growth, the service sector, hit hard by the pandemic, still suffered a slump in employment last month. But job losses in the in-person service segments eased in March from the previous month.
The accommodation and food service segment reported an on-year fall of 28,000 jobs last month, lower than 232,000 job losses a month earlier. The wholesale and retail sector lost 168,000 posts, compared with a decline of 194,000 positions in February.
The manufacturing sector shed 11,000 jobs on-year last month, smaller than a decline of 27,000 posts in February.
But the social welfare segment gained 171,000 jobs and the public administration sector added 94,000 posts last month on the back of state-backed job programs.
Temporary jobs also gained ground in March, with the number of temporary workers rising 206,000 on-year and jobs for day laborers increasing 41,000.
The government said the number of employed people is expected to grow 150,000 this year.
But the Bank of Korea (BOK) presented a bleaker outlook, citing slumps in the service sector. The central bank forecast the number of hired people to grow 80,000 this year, down from its earlier estimate of an increase of 130,000.