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Korea economy posts strong jobs growth

Korea’s economy added jobs in December at the fastest rate for seven months as manufacturers boosted hiring amid strong exports, official figures showed Wednesday.

The number of employed people stood at 23.68 million last month, up 455,000 from a year earlier. It was the largest year-on-year increase in jobs since 586,000 in May.

The unemployment rate of 3.5 percent last month was unchanged from December 2009 but up from 3 percent in November 2010, Statistics Korea said, amid reduced construction work due to cold weather and heavy snow.

“Hiring remained robust in non-public sectors, helped by brisk industrial production and exports,” its report said.

“The manufacturing, health, social welfare, facility maintenance and construction sectors saw continued job growth.”

For the whole of 2010, the jobless rate edged up to 3.7 percent from the previous year’s 3.6 percent. However, a total of 323,000 new jobs were created last year ― the largest number for six years.

Despite the overall improvement, younger people were still struggling to find work. The jobless rate among those aged 15-29 rose to 8 percent last month from the previous month’s 6.4 percent.

The government has tipped growth of around 5 percent for this year, despite lower forecasts from the central bank and think-tanks, and 6.1 percent for 2010.

Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun cautioned however that Asia’s fourth largest economy must strengthen fundamentals to prepare for tougher competition in the post-crisis era.

“We have laid the solid groundwork for a new leap forward by overcoming the crisis, achieving over 6 percent growth and successfully hosting the G20 summit talks last year,” Yonhap news agency quoted him as saying at a meeting with other policymakers.

“Now it is time for us to shore up, as we will have to face fierce competition.” (AFP)