SEOUL, May 12 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea reported the largest job growth in almost seven years in April in the latest sign that the job market is recovering from a yearlong slump caused by the pandemic, data showed Wednesday.
The number of employed people reached 27.2 million last month, 652,000 more than a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.
It marked the largest on-year increase since August 2014, when the number of employed people rose 670,000.
The April reading also marked the second straight month of the country reporting job additions. In March, the number of working people increased by 314,000 from a year earlier, the first job growth in 13 months.
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.
“Amid an economic recovery, increased activities following relaxed social distancing rules and a low base effect helped create more jobs,” Jeong Dong-myeong, a senior official handling the issue at Statistics Korea, told reporters.
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said recovery momentum in the job market has become more “evident.”
The improved jobs data came as the South Korean economy is on a recovery track on the back of robust exports.
President Moon Jae-in said Monday the government will make efforts to prompt Asia’s fourth-largest economy to grow at least 4 percent this year. Last year, the Korean economy contracted 1 percent amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of unemployed people came to 1.15 million last month, down 25,000 from the previous year.
The country’s jobless rate fell 0.2 percentage point on-year to 4 percent last month. But the unemployment rate for young adults — those aged between 15 and 29 — still stayed higher as the rate rose 0.7 percentage point on-year to 10 percent in April.
The number of non-economically active people or those who have no willingness to work, declined for the second straight month. The number of such people fell 324,000 on-year to 16.7 million last month, the largest on-year decline in seven years.
Despite overall job growth, the service sector, hit hard by the pandemic, still suffered a slump in employment last month. But a severe erosion in jobs eased amid relaxed distancing rules.
The wholesale and retail sector reported a fall of 182,000 jobs last month, and the arts, sports and leisure service segment lost 11,000.
But the accommodation and food service segment reported the first job addition since February 2020, with an on-year gain of 61,000 jobs last month.
The manufacturing sector, a backbone of the country’s economy, added 9,000 positions in April, marking the first job growth in 14 months.
The social welfare segment gained 224,000 jobs and the public administration sector added 80,000 posts last month on the back of state-backed job programs.
Temporary jobs also gained ground in April, with the number of temporary workers rising 379,000 on-year and jobs for day laborers increasing 38,000.
Experts said the job market is improving, but it may take a longer time for the country to witness a full-fledged recovery, given slumps in the in-person service sector.
“The number of employed people has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels. The segments providing face-to-face services and vulnerable people are facing extended difficulties,” the finance ministry said.
The government said the number of employed people is expected to grow 150,000 this year.
In February, the Bank of Korea forecast the number of hired people to grow 80,000 this year, down from its earlier estimate of an increase of 130,000.