S.Korea's February jobless rate hits record low

FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at recruiting information during a job fair in Seoul, South Korea, April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s annual unemployment rate fell to the lowest on record in February, with jobs growth staying at a near 22-year-high, though the increase was mainly due to a low base and the government’s fiscal spending.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month dropped to 2.7%, Statistics Korea data showed on Wednesday, the lowest since data releases began in June 1999. It came in at 3.6% in January.

The number of employed increased by 1.037 million from a year earlier in February, not far from January’s jobs growth of 1.135 million, which was the most since March 2000.

The country lost jobs for a 12th straight month through March 2020 to February 2021, while the jobless rate soared to over a 20-year high of 5.2% in January 2021, as the coronavirus hit the nation’s labour market.

A breakdown of data showed 254,000 jobs were added in healthcare and social services, a quarter of the total number, while some 135,000 jobs were added in transportation and warehouses.

Jobs in the wholesale and retail industry, however, continued to shrink, losing 47,000 jobs from a year earlier. Those in the key manufacturing sector rose 32,000, but that was less than a month earlier and growth remained weak.

To shore up the economy, the government has allocated about a third of the total government expenditure to welfare and jobs, and promised to spend about 70% of the annual fiscal budget during the first half of 2022.

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