South Korea’s job figures improve in Feb. amid virus fears

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Nation braces for harsh blow in March figures amid COVID-19 impact.

South Korea saw its jobless rate decline and job creations extend the uptrend for several months straight in February, while some service industries have started reflecting the negative impact of the new coronavirus, government data showed Wednesday.
However, with the infection rate taking a steep upturn, Asia’s fourth-largest economy is likely to face the full-scale fallout in its employment indexes starting this month.
Korea added 492,000 new jobs in February from a month earlier, with its total employed population standing at 26.83 million, according to figures compiled by Statistics Korea. This on-month growth marked the seventh consecutive month that the country saw 300,000 or more job additions from the previous month.
The unemployment rate shed 0.6 percentage point on-year to 4.1 percent, the lowest record for any February since 2013. The number of jobless people came to 1.15 million, down 11.5 percent from a year earlier, extending the downturn for seven months straight.
The employment rate for those aged between 15 and 64 -- a comparative index for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member states -- reached 66.3 percent last month, the highest for any February since 1982.
The recent job creation trend, however, was mostly focused on elderly employment in health and welfare, as well as in delivery services, data showed.
The number of employed people aged 60 or more climbed 570,000 on-year last month, of which those aged 65 or more accounted for nearly 68 percent. The corresponding figure for those aged between 40 and 49 slipped 104,000 during the same period.
“The country’s overall employment has (so far) had limited impact from COVID-19, but individual industries have started to display the fallout,” said Eun Soon-hyun, director of social statistics.
Whereas restaurants and lodging businesses have taken a downturn in job figures this month, transportation, and warehousing businesses have seen a visible rise in employment due to the drastic rise in ‘untact’ deliveries, the official explained.
Uncatct refers to minimizing contact with customers.
Taking the strongest hit was the wholesale and retail sector, which shed 106,000 jobs in February.
The nation’s long-struggling manufacturing segment added 34,000 new jobs, marking an on-year rise for two consecutive months.
“From March onwards, the downside risks related to employment will expand due to the impact of COVID-19,” Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki wrote on Facebook, after the statistics office’s data release.
The employment downturn in the service industries should be taken as a warning sign that the prolonged epidemic is exerting influence on the actual job market, according to the fiscal chief.

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