Korea adds 351,000 jobs in May to post record employment rate

Job gains slowed for second consecutive month, with almost 40% of jobs added for seniors 60 or older.

Song Seung-hyun

Song Seung-hyun

The Korea Herald


Seo Woon-ju, a Statistics Korea official, speaks about data analyzing May’s employment numbers in Korea during a press briefing held in the central city of Sejong, Wednesday. (Yonhap)

June 15, 2023

SEOUL – Total employment in South Korea reached 28.83 million in May, up 351,000 from a year earlier, data from Statistics Korea showed Wednesday.

It was the second consecutive month that the nation’s on-year job growth increased, though the growth rate slowed slightly.

Since the beginning of this year, the on-year monthly employment rate has been fluctuating in the range of about 300,000 to 400,000 individuals.

In February, there were 312,000 more on-year employed individuals, and the figure peaked with 469,000 more in March.

In May, the employment rate for individuals aged 15 and above reached an impressive 63.5 percent, marking a noteworthy rise of 0.5 percentage point compared to the previous year. This represents the highest employment rate recorded since data compilation began in 1982.

Additionally, the employment rate for individuals aged 15-64 reached 69.9 percent, displaying an increase of 0.7 percentage point and quickly approaching the significant 70 percent milestone. This rate also stands as the highest recorded since data compilation commenced for the age group in 1989.

The number of unemployed individuals decreased by 102,000 to 787,000, resulting in a decline in the unemployment rate to 2.7 percent, representing a decrease of 0.3 percentage point.

This marks the lowest number of unemployed individuals since May 2008, when it was recorded at 761,000.

Additionally, it is also the lowest unemployment rate since June 1999, when the current statistical criteria were implemented.

The number of discouraged job seekers stood at 334,000, indicating a decrease of 89,000 individuals from the previous year.

According to Statistics Korea, it appears that the employment market is becoming more vibrant, with an increase in outside activities.

When examining the data classified by different age groups, it becomes clear that the job market reflects the declining population of the youth age group (15-29 years old) and the concurrent increase in the number of senior job seekers.

The number of employed individuals aged 60 and above increased on-year by 379,000 in May, while age groups excluding those aged 60 and above saw a decrease of 28,000.

In particular, the total youth employment number continued to decline for a seventh consecutive month, with a reduction of 99,000 individuals on-year in May.

Employment among individuals in their 40s also decreased by 48,000 on-year, while those in their 50s witnessed an increase of 49,000.

When looking into the data classified by different industries, the health care and social assistance sector led overall employment growth in May by adding 166,000 on-year, followed by the accommodation and food services sector with an increase of 128,000.

On the flip side, the manufacturing sector in May continued its downward trend, experiencing a decrease of 39,000 individuals in on-year employment for the fifth consecutive month.

“The decline in employment in the manufacturing sector appears to be related to the decrease in exports in sectors such as semiconductors and petrochemicals,” said Seo Woon-ju, a Statistics Korea official.

However, the rate of decline narrowed compared to the reduction by 97,000 observed in April, according to Statistics Korea.

The construction sector witnessed the largest decline since November 2019, with an on-year reduction of 66,000 employed individuals.

In terms of employment status, regular employees increased by 591,000 on-year, while temporary contract workers and one-time workers decreased by 158,000 and 133,000, respectively.

When it comes to working hours, the number of employed individuals working 36 hours or more increased by 217,000 on-year, while those working fewer than 36 hours increased by 140,000.

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