(2nd LD) S. Korea adds fewest number of jobs in 3 yrs in March; youth employment falls

South Korea added the fewest number of jobs in three years in March due mainly to a high base effect and weak employment in the agricultural sector amid unfavorable weather conditions, the statistics agency said Friday. The youth employment rate fell for the first time in six months, though the manufacturing sector reported job growth for four consecutive months on the recovering semiconductor sector. The number of employed people came to 28.39 million last month, up 173,000 from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea. It marked the fewest number of new jobs since February 2021, when the country lost 473,000 job posts on-year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. On-year job growth peaked in January 2022 when the country had 1.13 million new jobs, and has slowed to have stayed around the 200,000 to 300,000 level. In February 2024, 329,000 jobs were added on-year, the second consecutive month that on-year job additions stayed over 300,000. "Last month's slower growth was due mainly to a high base effect as 469,000 jobs were created in March 2023. Bad weather conditions also led to a sharp decline in the number of jobs in the agricultural and fishing sector," Seo Woon-joo, an official at the agency, said. The agricultural and fishing sector lost 50,000 workers, marking the largest fall since March 2017 when it shed 56,000 jobs. The wholesale and retail field also reported an on-year job decline of 14,000 positions last month. But the manufacturing sector added 49,000 more jobs in March, marking the fourth monthly rise on the back of rising exports. Exports, a key growth engine for South Korea, advanced for the sixth consecutive month in March on solid demand for semiconductors. The restaurants and accommodation sector also had 7,000 new positions, the first on-year gain in three months amid weak private consumption, the data showed. March's slower job growth was also attributable to demographic changes. The number of people aged 15-64 in South Korea has decreased in recent years, fro m a peak of 36.87 million in 2017 to 36.69 million in 2020 and later to 36.32 million in 2022 due mainly to a low birthrate and populating aging, the agency said. As of last month, the number further dropped to 35.73 million. In the first quarter of 2024, the country added 294,000 new jobs, compared with 303,000 posts in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the finance ministry. By age group, the number of jobs for those aged 15-29 dropped by 131,000, the largest fall since July last year when the country saw 138,000 fewer jobs for them. The youth employment rate fell 0.3 percentage point to 45.9 percent. It was the first time in six months that the figure logged an on-year decline. People in their 40s also saw 79,000 fewer positions last month. But jobs for those aged 60 and older rose by 233,000 on-year. Those in their 30s and 50s added 91,000 and 59,000 jobs, respectively. The employment rate of people aged 15-64 increased 0.4 percentage point on-year to 69.1 percent last month, the highes t level for any March. The jobless rate grew 0.1 percentage point to 3 percent, and the number of people who remained unemployed and sought a job rose 6.2 percent to 892,000 in March, the data showed. "The job market has largely been stable and is expected to remain solid amid an economic recovery centering on exports," the finance ministry said in a release. "But weak domestic demand and fewer construction orders could affect the overall job market, and the government will closely monitor such risk factors and strive to create more quality jobs," it added. Source: Yonhap News Agency

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