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South Korea Adds Workers as December Jobless Rate Holds at 3%

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- South Korea’s workforce expanded last month, with the unemployment rate unchanged from November as jobs increased in manufacturing and in the service sector.

The jobless rate was at 3 percent in December, Statistics Korea said in an e-mailed statement from Sejong, south of Seoul. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 11 economists was for a rate of 3 percent. The number of employed people increased by 277,000, or 1.1 percent, to 24.4 million last month from a year earlier.

Incoming President Park Geun Hye has vowed to make it more difficult for companies to fire employees and to increase assistance for low-income workers burdened with record household debt. The nation will create 320,000 jobs this year, the Finance Ministry said in a Dec. 27 report, down from an estimated 440,000 million new positions in 2012.

“The unemployment rate looks good, but it is unlikely to help lift domestic consumption,” Ma Ju Ok, an economist at Kiwoom Securities Co. in Seoul said before the release. “There are many workers in temporary positions.”

The ranks of self-employed increased to 5.7 million as of last month, from 5.6 million in December 2011, according to the most recent report from Statistics Korea.

South Korea’s won is Asia’s best-performing currency this year, dragging on exports that unexpectedly fell in December for the first time in three months. The won strengthened 0.1 percent to 1,062.90 per dollar yesterday in Seoul.

Seasonally Unadjusted

The seasonally unadjusted jobless rate was at 2.9 percent in December, up 0.1 percent from November, today’s report showed.

The Bank of Korea meets to decide interest rates on Jan. 11, with 13 of 14 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News predicting the policy rate to remain unchanged at 2.75 percent. Park, who takes office next month, plans a fiscal boost in the first half of the year by allocating 72 percent of budget spending for 2013, or about $200 billion.

“The central bank is likely to wait for the incoming administration’s policies to become clear,” Ma said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cynthia Kim in Seoul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Panckhurst at

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