SEJONG, May 13 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea reported the sharpest drop in its April employment since 1999 as the coronavirus pandemic hammered job markets, data showed Wednesday.
The number of employed people in South Korea stood at 26.56 million in April, 476,000 people fewer than a year ago, marking the biggest on-year decline since February 1999.
The labor force participation rate, which refers to the percentage of those who are aged 15 or older and remain in the labor force by either being employed or actively looking for jobs, also fell 1.6 percentage points to 62 percent in April, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.
It also marked the sharpest decline since 2000, when the nation’s job markets were crippled in the wake of the Asian financial crisis.
The nation’s jobless rate fell by 0.2 percentage point on-year to 4.2 percent in April.
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki called the slump in job markets “grave,” saying the workforce could further shrink in the coming months.
The government will discuss measures to create more than 550,000 jobs, Hong told a meeting with top economic policymakers.
The number of economically inactive people rose by 5.1 percent to 16.99 million in April, marking the biggest jump since June 2000, the data showed.
“Given grim outlooks on the global economy and uncertainties in virus containment situations, it is difficult to predict how long the dark tunnel of job markets will last,” Hong said.
The third extra budget, which will be unveiled early next month, will focus on protecting jobs, Hong said.
The employment rate for young adults — those aged between 15 and 29 — also fell 1.4 percentage point on-year to 65.1 percent last month.
The coronavirus outbreak has hit temporary and daily employees hard, with the number of temporary workers plunging by 800,000 in April, the data showed.
April’s tumble was attributed to the novel coronavirus outbreak, which has dealt a harsh blow to consumer spending and corporate activities, as people have been urged to avoid going out to help curb the spread of the disease.
By industry, the wholesale and retail sector lost 123,000 jobs, and the accommodation and food service segment saw a decrease of 212,000 jobs last month.
In contrast, the farm and fisheries sector added 73,000 jobs and the health care and social welfare sector gained 77,000 jobs last month.
“The number of employed people sharply fell in sectors that require face-to-face meetings,” a Statistics Korea official said.
Observers said the impact of the coronavirus may appear in the country’s jobs data in the second half of the year, given the time lag of one to two quarters for an economic crisis.