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S. Korea’s job indexes progress in Jan., likely to falter in Feb.

Job market uptrend likely to be affected by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak: minister

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki chairs a meeting of economy-related ministers at Seoul Government Complex on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki chairs a meeting of economy-related ministers at Seoul Government Complex on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea saw its jobless rate fall with job additions hitting the highest level in more than five years in January, on the back of the government’s continued fiscal efforts to expand the job market for the elderly, data showed Wednesday.

But as the improved figures did not properly reflect the latest impact of the new coronavirus COVID-19, the government suggested a pessimistic outlook for this month.

The nation’s unemployment rate fell 0.4 percentage point on-year to 4.1 percent and the number of employed people stood at 26.8 million in January, according to data compiled by Statistics Korea.

The number of newly added jobs also showed an uptrend, reaching 568,000 -- the highest mark since August 2014.

The unemployment rate for those aged between 15 and 29 decreased to 7.7 percent, down 1.2 percentage point from a year earlier.

Steering the job indexes were those aged 60 or more -- with 506,000 new jobs last month -- marking the steepest monthly gain since the government started compiling such data in 1982.

The job market for those in their 40s, however, continued to shrink for 51 months straight, with the number of employed people dropping 84,000 on-month in January.

“The employment rate for those in their 40s dropped slightly last month but the declining pace slowed down to a certain extent,” said an official of the statistics office.

“The government is keeping a close watch on such trends, seeking to respond with proper countermeasures on time.”

By industry, it was the health and social welfare sectors which added the highest number of jobs at 189,000 on the back of government spending. The wholesale and retail business, in contrast, shed 94,000 jobs in January.

Notwithstanding the latest advancements, however, Asia’s fourth-largest economy is likely to see its February job indexes falter once again under the prolonged impact of the COVID-19.

“There is a possibility that uncertainties in the domestic labor market will expand, especially in the service industries, due to the effect of the new coronavirus outbreak,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki in a meeting of economy-related ministers held at Seoul Government Complex.

The quickly spreading virus has been intimidating economic activities, triggering excessive fears and tension, the fiscal chief added.

In a supporting move, the government vowed to pay out some 45 billion won ($38 million) to small and medium-sized enterprises and owner-operators who suffered losses amid the virus outbreak, starting Thursday.

By Bae Hyun-jung (