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Price, jobs data belie grim reality

All Headlines 09:53 February 02, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's official unemployment and inflation figures belie the grim reality facing most Koreans who feel greater economic pain amid sluggish economic growth, a poll showed Thursday.

According to the survey on 1,030 adults, the country's so-called misery index, or the addition of the jobless rate to the annual inflation rate minus the economic growth rate, stood at 2.0 in 2016.

But the misery perceptions index, which measures how people actually feel about those indicators, was 11.9 times higher at 23.7, showed the nationwide telephone survey taken by the office of National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun from Dec. 18-19.

The big difference was attributed to the fact that people felt worse about the joblessness and inflation data, while believing the economy contracted last year, contrary to the official data of a modest gain.

South Korea's consumer prices rose 1 percent in 2016 from a year earlier, well below the Bank of Korea's inflation target of 2 percent, but people felt they surged 9 percent.

The unemployment perceptions index came to 11.4 percent, much higher than the headline jobless rate of 3.7 percent, as the official data excluded those who are willing to work but have given up finding jobs.

Students study at the library of a university in Seoul on Jan. 11, 2017. The nation's youth unemployment rate hit a record high of 9.8 percent in 2016 (Yonhap)

The central bank announced that Asia's fourth-largest economy expanded 2.7 percent last year from 2015, but the respondents felt that it actually contracted 3.3 percent.

The findings also showed the misery perceptions index amounted to 29.7 for women, while the comparable figure for men came to 19.2.

An official from the parliamentary chief's office called for government measures to deal with the situation, saying that a high misery perceptions index could have a negative impact on the overall economy by dampening consumer sentiment and lowering people's life satisfaction.

"The government should urgently come up with measures to reduce the jobless rate for youths and seniors," he said. "Steps should also been taken to stabilize food prices and minimize the growth of farm product prices by streamlining their distribution system."

South Korea's unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 29 hit a record high of 9.8 percent with the jobless exceeding the 1 million mark for the first time.
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