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(LEAD) Number of long-term jobless people hits 13-year high in May

All News 10:28 June 22, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS 3rd para to clarify)

SEOUL, June 22 (Yonhap) -- The number of long-term unemployed people in South Korea reached a 13-year high in May, data showed Thursday, as companies were unwilling to hire amid uncertainties over their future and other reasons.

The country's long-term unemployed numbered 120,000 in May, accounting for 11.9 percent of total jobless and marking the highest figure for the month since 2004, according to the data from Statistics Korea.

Long-term unemployed refers to individuals who have been looking for work for six months or longer. The number of the country's long-term unemployed tends to hit a nadir in February and peak in August or September when large companies start their second-half hiring.

In recent months, the number has been on a steady rise as local companies fret over future business conditions despite recent signs of a recovery in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

"The recent economic recovery is limited to exports and some other sectors, while relying on the construction sector in the first quarter, which usually hires short-term workers," said Sung Tae-yoon, an economics professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.

(LEAD) Number of long-term jobless people hits 13-year high in May - 1

"Such a situation would have not been of much help to change a reality where the number of long-term unemployed people is rising," Sung added.

Some analysts said the government's push to convert temporary workers in the public sector into regulars may have made companies hesitant to make decisions on employment while sizing up its impact.

South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in has vowed to eliminate all nonregular jobs in the public sector during his five-year term as part of his signature job creation campaign. Moon, who took office May 10, has promised to create 810,000 new quality jobs in the public sector over the next five years.

Others expected the implementation of an extra budget to help slightly reduce the number of the long-term unemployed. The government has submitted an 11.2 trillion won (US$9.8 billion) supplementary budget to the National Assembly, which is forecast to help create some 110,000 jobs.

South Korea, meanwhile, remains dogged by high youth joblessness. The unemployment rate for young people aged between 15 and 29 hit 11.2 percent in April, far higher than the country's headline jobless rate of 4.2 percent.
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