South Korea Unemployment Rate Jumps to Six-Year High at 4.1%

  • Youth jobless rate hits record as graduates can't land jobs
  • Record number of applicants for civil-service positions

South Korea’s unemployment rate rose to a six-year high last month as more college graduates failed to land jobs amid slowing economic growth. Distortions from the lunar new year holiday were also a seasonal factor behind the rise.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate climbed to 4.1 percent in February, the highest since February 2010, Statistics Korea said on Wednesday. The agency said the youth unemployment rate for those ages 15-29 was 12.5 percent, the highest on record, with college graduates rushing to join the workforce after graduation.

“More than 220,000 people applied for civil-servant job hiring since late January, which was a record high. The stiff competition in the job market is leaving many young people without jobs,” said Sim Won Bo, director at Statistics Korea.

Finance minister Yoo Il Ho has vowed to place emphasis on job creation as external uncertainty including the slowing Chinese economy hurts sentiment at home. The government is counting on domestic demand to achieve 3.1 percent growth this year as exports have fallen for 14 straight months.

Conducting the job market survey after the February 7-9 lunar new year holiday added seasonal distortion as temporary workers in retail and transportation sectors tend to lose jobs after public holidays, Sim said. Last year, the agency conducted the survey before the lunar new year holiday.

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