South Korea saw its major job indexes improve in November 2019, with the employment rate hitting an all-time high and the number of newly created jobs remaining steady, government data showed at a recent press briefing. However, the downtrend in employment continued for those workers in their 40s, reflecting the sluggish market situation in the retail and manufacturing sectors.

In November, the number of newly added jobs stood at 27.5 million. This is up from a year earlier, keeping the on-year increase above the 300,000 mark for four months straight, according to data from Statistics Korea. The overall employment rate capped out at 61.7 percent, up 0.3 percent from the same point in 2018.

This figure is also the highest one observed since 1982, when the government started tallying job statistics under current standards. Youth employment rates for the age group of 15-29 years was 44.3 percent; an increase of 1.1 percentage points over last year.

The employment rate for the 15-64 age group, which is defined as the working-age population by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, also saw a small increase of 0.3 percent; reaching 67.4 percent this year. This was the highest level posted since November 1989, when the government started to keep separate job figures for the working-age population and people over 65.

As for jobless rates, figures are down 0.1 percentage point on-year; reaching 3.1 percent. This is the lowest level for any November since 2015. Total number of jobless people came in at around 866,000 in November 2019, down 43,000 or 4.7 percent from a year earlier.

With regards to industries, the lodging and restaurant industry continue to remain strong in terms of job creation. Since February 2019, these two sectors have seen an uptrend in employment. They have gained 82,000 new jobs on-year in November on the back of increased numbers of inbound travelers, according to the statistics office.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing sector, which has been struggling for some time, continues to do so. Newly added jobs in November came in at just around 26,000; down 0.6 percent from a year earlier. This means that the downtrend in the sector has continued for about 20 months straight.

The wholesale and retail, construction, public administration, and finance sectors all remained on a downtrend in terms of newly added jobs.

While the overall picture of job creation remains strong, the number of jobs for those workers in their 40s fell 1.1 percent year-on in November, marking the steepest fall since December 2009 and continuing the downward trend that has lasted for a shocking 49 months straight.

“People in their 40s tend to be the most affected by retail and manufacturing business trends,” said Chung Dong-wook, head of employment data at Statistics Korea, in a press briefing.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance has stated that these latest figures reveal that there is solid recovery occurring in the local job market. Unfortunately, the future remains relatively uncertain due to the rapidly aging population of the nation and other external challenges.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy has been weighed down by ongoing US-China trade tension, as well as by the cyclical downturn of the global semiconductor business.

The economy expanded 0.4 percent during the third quarter of 2019, marking a slowdown from the 1 percent it posted in the previous quarter.


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