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(LEAD) Youths outside labor force hit four-year high

2017/03/21 10:10

(ATTN: FIXES typo in headline; ADDS more in para 8)

SEJONG, March 21 (Yonhap) -- The number of young South Koreans outside the labor force hit a four-year high in February as more were just out of work without trying to find jobs, government data showed Tuesday.

The revelation sparks concerns that a prolonged economic slump, combined with the country's political turmoil following the ouster of President Park Geun-hye over a graft scandal, may discourage young people from seeking jobs down the road.

According to the data by Statistics Korea, Koreans aged 15-29 who don't want a job numbered 362,000 last month, up 11,600 from the previous month. It was the highest since February 2013 and marked the first on-year increase in 15 months.

Such people refer to those who are able to work but aren't working just to take time off. They are outside the labor force and not considered unemployed because they are not actively seeking work.

Market watchers said the hike in the number of young people outside the labor force may have been affected partly by the country's high youth jobless rate.

More youths, who have failed to land jobs several times, may be seeking other ways without trying to find jobs temporarily as the local labor market is expected not to improve this year, they added.

Last week, the statistical agency announced South Korea's youth unemployment rate reached 12.3 percent last month, down slightly from a record 12.5 percent tallied a year earlier but up sharply from January's 8.6 percent.

The country's headline jobless rate soared to an over seven-year high of 5 percent in February, edging up 0.1 percentage point from the same month last year. The number of jobless people hit a fresh high of 1.35 million on a seasonally adjusted basis.

According to recent data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the jobless rate for South Koreans aged 15-24 came to 10.7 percent last year, up from 10.5 percent a year earlier and exceeding that of the United States for the first time in 16 years. The comparable figure for the world's largest economy was 10.4 percent.

South Korea is reeling from Park's removal from office by the Constitutional Court on March 10, which requires the election of her successor within 60 days. The South Korean economy, Asia's fourth largest, grew 2.7 percent on-year in 2016, but is widely expected to lose steam due to unfavorable factors both at home and abroad.