The number of unemployed people broke through 1.22 million in January, hitting a 19 year high. The unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, the highest level in nine years. On the other hand, the number of employed persons rose by fewer than 20,000 and the employment rate dropped by 0.3 percentage point to 59.2 percent.
The government is trying to improve the employment index by pouring trillions of won into creating jobs, but the worst unemployment situation shows no signs of improvement. As the employment situation continues to deteriorate, some government officials began to discuss the possibility of drawing up a supplementary budget to create jobs.
A report released by Statistics Korea on Feb. 13 said that the number of employed workers rose by 19,000 on year to 26,232,000 in January. It is the smallest increase since 3,000 in August of 2018 and fell far short of the government's target of 150,000.
A total of 183,000 jobs disappeared in the three industries which are sensitive to changes in the minimum wage -- wholesale and retail, lodging and dining, and facility management. The number of workers in the manufacturing sector, which was hit by a slowdown in the semiconductor market and corporate restructurings, shrank by 170,000 from a year earlier. Construction jobs, which had been on the rise since August 2016, slid by 19,000, the first drop in 30 months.
However, the number of workers in the healthcare and social welfare sectors, which enjoyed a sharp increase in government subsidies, increased by a record 179,000. The agricultural and fishery industries chalked up an increase of 109,000 workers as well.
The surge in the number of unemployed people is noticeable. The figure stood at 1,224,000 in January, the highest figure for the month since 1,232,000 recorded in January 2000. The unemployment rate was 4.5 percent, the highest since 5 percent in January 2010. The real unemployment rate stood at 13 percent, the highest since the government began to calculate related statistics in 2015.
The deteriorating employment indicators are raising the possibility of the government creating an extra budget for job creation. The government has decided to hire 2,000 more employees at public organizations than originally planned.