By Nam Hyun-woo
The number of unemployed people again topped 1 million in January and the number of employed people showed the smallest gain in 11 months, government data showed Wednesday.
According to Statistics Korea, the number of unemployed people stood at 1,009,000 last month, sending the joblessness rate to 3.8 percent, up 0.1 percentage point year-on-year. This was the highest since April last year, when the rate came to 3.9 percent.
The number of employed people was 25.69 million last month, up 243,000 from a year earlier. The growth is the smallest since 223,000 in February last year and far below the 290,000 predicted by the government.
The number of jobless people showed the sharpest increase among people over 60 at 50,000. Unemployed people in their 30s also grew by 34,000. However, young people aged between 15 and 29 did relatively well as their unemployment rate dropped by 0.9 percentage points to 8.6 percent.
In particular, jobs disappeared quickly in the manufacturing sector amid the protracted economic slump. They fell by 160,000 from January last year, marking seven consecutive months of contraction, and the sharpest decrease since July 2009 when the figure shrank by 173,000.
The government attributed the plunge to restructuring in the shipbuilding sector as well as sluggish exports and domestic demand.
The so-called big three shipbuilders here -- Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Samsung Heavy Industries -- cut their number of employees by 7,000 last year and are looking to sack 14,000 more this year.
Also, Korea's exports decreased 5.9 percent in 2016 from the previous year, negatively affecting employment in the manufacturing sector.
By industries, the number of employed people in the accommodation and food, education, construction, and health and welfare sectors increased by 74,000, 69,000, 85,000 and 63,000, respectively. But the job markets in transportation, finance and insurance, and agriculture struggled.
"Following increased uncertainty both at home and abroad, consumer sentiment and domestic demand are worsening," said a Statistics Korea official. "With the impact of corporate restructuring still lingering, there is a downward risk in the job market for the first quarter."