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(2nd LD) S. Korea's jobless rate stands at 2.9 pct in Dec.
SEJONG, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's jobless rate remained under 3 percent for the fourth straight month in December, but job growth sharply slowed down, suggesting the labor market conditions remain tough for many job seekers, a government report showed Wednesday.

   According to the report by Statistics Korea, the jobless rate stood at 2.9 percent last month, slightly up from the previous month's 2.8 percent. The rate has been in the 2-percent range since September.

   The number of jobs added to the economy, however, declined. About 277,000 jobs were created last month compared with a year earlier, down from 353,000 jobs registered in November, the report showed. It is the slowest job gain since September 2011 when it grew 264,000.

   For 2012, the country's jobless rate was 3.2 percent, down from 3.4 percent in 2011, with an average of 437,000 jobs added to the economy compared with a year earlier.

   "As jobs available in the construction, publication, visual, broadcasting and communications service sectors declined, the overall job growth pace slowed down last month," the report said.

   The construction sector shed 82,000 jobs in December from a year earlier as cold weather conditions resulted in a decline in employment of daily and temporary workers. The publication, visual, broadcasting and communications service sector saw 43,000 jobs disappear over the same period.

   The manufacturing sector still led the overall job growth by adding 112,000 positions. The health and social welfare service sector created 88,000 jobs, the report showed.

   Labor market conditions for young people remained tougher. The unemployment rate for those aged 15-29 jumped to 7.5 percent from the previous month's 6.7 percent. This is the highest level since June when the rate rose to 7.7 percent.

   "Customarily, jobless rates among younger people rise in winter when students graduate and join others in looking for jobs," an agency official said. "The seasonally adjusted jobless rate, which reflected such factors, still remain unchanged at 7.3 percent in November."

   The job report comes as South Korea's economy faces heightened uncertainty stemming from worries that the protracted eurozone debt problems and global slowdown could dampen its growth by undercutting exports.

   South Korea's government recently revised down its growth outlook for this year from 4 percent to 3 percent, citing toughened economic conditions at home and abroad. It is saying that the outlook is a "baseline," meaning that growth could slow further into the 2-percent range.

   The report showed that the unemployed population totaled 737,000 last month, up from 710,000 tallied a month earlier.

   The so-called "economically inactive" people -- those who gave up looking for jobs due to child rearing, housekeeping and studying for employment -- stood at 16.71 million last month, also up from 16.12 million in November, the report showed.

   The finance ministry said in a report on the latest job data that it worried that the job creation pace will continue to be restrained down the road by tough labor market conditions.

   The ministry also noted that it will keep monitoring employment conditions especially for those in their 20s as their jobless rate remains much higher than other age groups.

   kokobj@yna.co.kr
(END)
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