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Jobless figure climbed to four-year high in 2005
The volume of jobless Koreans hit a four-year high last year with the annual unemployment rate at 3.7 percent as more people failed to land jobs amid a faltering economy, government figures showed yesterday.
The number of unemployed totaled 887,000 last year, up 27,000 from 2004. The 2005 unemployment rate of 3.7 percent was the same as that of a year ago, implying that no improvement was made on the job front.
Compared to November, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in December dropped to 3.5 percent from 3.6 percent, said the National Statistical Office in a report.
"The biggest concern is the sluggish economic activity among the younger generation who are not mustering up enthusiasm about getting jobs," said Sohn Min-joong, an economist at Samsung Economic Research Institute.
The statistical office figures showed that the jobless rate for younger Koreans aged between 15 and 29 reached 8 percent last year, which was more than double the total unemployment rate. More alarming is that the youths cited "no special reason" for being unemployed.
In November, the number of employed male workers in their 20s fell to less than 2 million for the first time since 1982.
For this year, experts are skeptical of a radical improvement in the local labor market.
"The inactivity among the younger job-seekers is appearing to be chronic, and the labor market must buck this trend if it wants to see the employment figure grow," said Sohn of SERI.
The increasing number of job-seekers in the so-called "silver market," indicating those 40 years or older, may help offset the losses a bit, he added.
Also bolstering the employment rate was the increased number of people employed in the electricity, transportation, telecommunications and finance sectors. The service sector saw a 5.4 percent increase from last year.
This year, the government hopes to add up to 400,000 jobs on the conviction that Asia's fourth-largest economy is recovering at a faster pace of possibly 5 percent.
Last year, the economy grew an estimated 3.9 percent on stronger consumer spending and exports.
The Bank of Korea, the country's central bank, expects private spending to increase by 4.5 percent next year from an estimated 3 percent last year.
The economy may also be given further room to grow as benchmark interest rates are expected to remain untouched this month.
The central bank yesterday froze the borrowing rate at 3.75 percent, citing weak inflationary pressure, after an unexpected rate increase of 0.25 basis points in December last year.