South Korea has gotten closer to its pre-pandemic employment levels as more people ventured out looking for jobs after the economy expanded at a faster pace than previously thought.

The economy added 619,000 jobs from a year earlier, a third month of gains, the statistics office reported on 9 June. The country has now recouped more than 80 percent of the positions lost during the COVID crisis, the finance ministry said in a separate statement.

The jobless rate increased to 3.8 percent from 3.7 percent the previous month, compared with analysts’ forecast for a lower reading of 3.6 percent, as the participation rate rose.

The report shows Korea’s labour market is recovering, but still needs stronger push from the private sector. The delay in a full recovery of jobs lends support to President Moon Jae-in’s call for more fiscal spending to promote a more balanced rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and may add to factors for the Bank of Korea (BOK) to consider as it mulls an exit from a record-low interest rate.

“It may be a while before employment recovers fully,” said Mr Park Sung-woo, fixed-income analyst at DB Financial Investment. “The BOK will consider a variety of factors including employment to decide on changing its interest rate, but consumption is likely to be slow for the rest of the year.”

The total number of employed people in the country rose to 27.3 million on a seasonally adjusted basis, just short of the pre-pandemic peak of 27.5 million in February 2020. The economically active population, which serves as the denominator for measuring unemployment, increased with 489,000 more people getting employed or looking for jobs.


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