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419,000 jobs added in October

But most employment growth is still focused in 60-plus category
Nov 14,2019
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Korea added 419,000 jobs last month from the same month a year earlier, the third consecutive month above 300,000, while unemployment hit 3.0 percent.

The rate was down 0.5 percentage points from last October, according to Statistics Korea’s monthly job report released Wednesday. That matches the August reading, which was the lowest since November 2013.

The strong headline figures were driven by the hiring of the elderly, as has been the case throughout the year. In the 60-and-over category, 417,000 jobs were added, the highest in that group since the statistics were first compiled in 1982.

The government is targeting the creation of 640,000 jobs for the elderly this year.

Elderly job growth last month was especially concentrated in the over-64 age group, where 258,000 jobs were added. In the same month in 2018, 155,000 jobs were added in that age group.

The government’s elderly job program faces controversy amid accusations that it inflates headline numbers through jobs that are mostly temporary and relatively less productive.

The agency’s data showed that shorter-hour jobs were on the rise last month, with individuals who worked fewer than 36 hours a week increasing by 599,000, or 13.6 percent, from the previous year.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki defended the job program in a radio interview with local broadcaster MBC earlier in the day, citing the difficulties faced by the growing number of older Koreans.

“In Korea, the world’s fastest-aging economy, elderly jobs are very important for those who leave the job market and are not properly prepared for retirement,” said Hong.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the elderly poverty rate stood at 42.2 percent in 2017.

In the 40s age group, jobs were lost last month.

The age group’s employment rate dropped by 0.6 percentage points as it shed 146,000 jobs, outpacing its demographic decline of 121,000.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki remained optimistic about the results during a senior government meeting later in the day.

“The 40s job situation was influenced by demographic factors and a slowdown in major labor sectors,” said Hong at the Central Government Complex in Seoul. “However, the employment rate’s decline slowed in October.”

The age group’s employment rate fell by 0.9 percentage points in September.

“The 40s age group faces the most difficulties in manufacturing, construction and wholesale and retail,” explained Jeong Dong-wook, the employment statistics division director at the agency during a briefing at the Government Complex in Sejong.

Manufacturing jobs declined by 81,000 last month, while construction jobs fell by 51,000. The wholesale and retail sector shed 67,000 jobs.

The manufacturing sector’s losses were focused in high-tech, such as in electronic parts and electric equipment making, according to Jeong.

The health care and welfare sector, the category with many jobs for the elderly, added the most jobs by sector last month, at 151,000.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]