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(LEAD) S. Korea's jobless rate stands at 3.2 pct in Dec.

All News 09:25 January 11, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS more details from 5th para, photo)

SEJONG, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's jobless rate remained unchanged in December from a year earlier, with a deep slump in the manufacturing sector contributing to the tight job market, government data showed Wednesday.

The unemployment rate in Asia's fourth-largest economy stood at 3.2 percent last month, staying flat from a year earlier, according to the report compiled by Statistics Korea.

The number of employed people stood at 26.17 million in December, up 289,000 from a year earlier, returning to the 200,000 range after two months.

The unemployment rate for young people, aged between 15 and 29, reached 8.4 percent last month, unchanged from a year earlier but up slightly from the previous month's 8.2 percent.

(LEAD) S. Korea's jobless rate stands at 3.2 pct in Dec. - 1

The statistics office said the sluggish performance of the manufacturing sector, which accounts for a quarter of the country's total employments, weighed heavily on the country's job market.

The number of new jobs by manufacturing businesses fell 115,000 in December from a year earlier, extending its losing streak for six straight months since July.

Local manufacturers newly hired around 150,000 people every month throughout 2015, with the number peaking at 191,000 in October.

But the figure plunged to 20,000 in June last year and posted negative growth in the following month for the first time in 49 months.

The downturn in the manufacturing sector's employment is largely attributable to faltering exports as Asia's fourth-largest economy depends on them for more than half of its gross domestic product, the office said.

South Korea's exports fell 8 percent in 2015 and 5.9 percent in 2016, posting monthly drops 21 times during the two-year period, due largely to a decline in global trade.

Also, the country is making efforts to reshape ailing sectors like shipbuilding, shipping and steelmaking, which have been suffering huge losses stemming from low oil prices, resulting in massive layoffs.

"Tumbling exports, ongoing corporate restructuring and sluggish corporate earnings dragged down their overall employment capacity," said Bi Hyun-joon, director for the employment statistics division at Statistics Korea.

"As exports are recovering in the recent months, the job market will likely get better on the back of the government-led stimulus plans."

For all of 2016, the unemployment rate reached a six-year high of 3.7 percent, with that for young people hitting an all-time high of 9.8 percent.

The number of jobless people amounted to 1.01 million last year, piercing the 1 million line for the first time since 2000, when the authorities started to compile such data.

The employed totaled 26.23 million last year, up 299,000 from the previous year, with the employment rate edging up 0.1 percentage point to 60.4 percent.

The manufacturing sector hired 4.48 million people last year, down 5,000 from a year earlier, marking the first negative growth since 2009, when it posted a drop of 126,000 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

(LEAD) S. Korea's jobless rate stands at 3.2 pct in Dec. - 2


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