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Number of employed people grows at slow pace in Q1

2018/05/16 11:24

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SEJONG, May 16 (Yonhap) -- The number of employed people in South Korea increased slowly in the first quarter of this year, government data showed Wednesday, sparking concerns over the economy's ability to create jobs.

The number of employed South Koreans expanded by 334,000 in January from a year earlier, but the figure tumbled to 104,000 in February before edging up to 112,000 in March, according to the data from Statistics Korea.

It is the first time since April last year that the number has grown in the 100,000s for the two consecutive months.

Some experts said the slowdown in the monthly gain of employed people is natural in light of South Korea's slowing population growth, which is caused by a chronic low birthrate.

South Korea's newborns reached 357,700 last year, down 11.9 percent from a year earlier and the lowest number of newborns since the statistics agency started to compile such data in 1970.

Monthly growth in the number of people aged 15 and older was in the 300,000s in 2016-17, having been in the 400,000s the previous year. The figure further dropped to below 300,000 in the first quarter of this year.

In a press conference early this month, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kim Dong-yeon said the government should pay close attention to the recent downturn in the country's working age population, or the number of people aged 15-64.

However, others said the slowdown in the first-quarter growth of employed people is serious as it accounts for less than half the gain in the number of people aged 15 and older.

In March alone, the percentage was 44.1 percent, the lowest since February 2016 and far lower than the monthly average of 97 percent in 2017, when Asia's fourth-largest economy grew 3.1 percent from the prior year.

The weak first-quarter increase in the number of employed people comes despite the government's concerted efforts to create more jobs. In March, the government proposed a 3.9 trillion-won (US$3.61 billion) supplementary budget to create new jobs for young people.

South Korea's jobless rate stood at 4.1 percent in April, down 0.1 percentage point from a year earlier. The unemployment rate for young adults -- those aged between 15 and 29 -- was still high at 10.7 percent, though it was down 0.5 percentage point from a year earlier.

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