SEOUL – South Korea recorded its biggest job losses in 22 years in December due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, according to data published by the country’s statistics office on Wednesday.
South Korea’s unemployment rate increased by 0.7 percent to stand at 4.1 percent in the last month of 2020.
The number of South Koreans employed in December was 26.5 million, which is 628,000 less than in the same month of the previous year.
This is the worst monthly figure since February 1999, when 658,000 jobs were lost as a result of the Asian financial crisis in 1997.
The statistics office estimates that the number of employed persons declined by some 218,000 in 2020, the worst drop since 1998.
The pace of job losses in the Asian country accelerated in December due to restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In December, the South Korean government enforced Level 2.5 social distancing measures – the second-highest in the country’s five-tier COVID-19 alert system – in the greater Seoul area, comprising of the capital, neighboring Incheon and Gyeonggi province, and Level 2 for the rest of the country.
Level 2.5 requires bars and restaurants to close at 9:00 pm and force nightclubs and karaoke bars to shut down.
In addition to this is a nationwide ban on private gatherings of more than four people until at least Jan. 17.
The loss of jobs was particularly high in the services sector.
The accommodation and food services sector lost 313,000 jobs while the wholesale and retail sector lost another 197,000.
The manufacturing sector, the pillar of the Asian country’s economy, saw some 110,000 layoffs in the last month of the year although the pace of job losses in this sector seems to have slowed down due to the recovery of South Korean exports.
These job losses were offset by the creation of 91,000 new jobs in the public administration sector and 44,000 in the social welfare sector.