(dpa) – Malaysia’s unemployment rate fell a notch to 4.8 per cent in February, the third consecutive month in which a drop was recorded, the Statistics Department said on Thursday.

The department described the numbers as showing a “marginal improvement” that paralleled “encouraging signs of the economy,” according to a statement.

Unemployment edged down from January’s 4.9 per cent, although the country was in the middle of a second lockdown at that time, in order to tackle what was the heaviest per-capita daily coronavirus caseload in Asia.

The lockdown did not lead to a jump in joblessness as “more businesses were allowed to operate with strict standard operating procedures” compared to the first lockdown, chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin said.

The government ended the short lockdown in mid-February after just over one month.

Last year’s first lockdown caused a collapse of gross domestic product (GDP) of almost 20 per cent in the second quarter, doing much of the damage as Malaysia’s economy shrank by 5.6 per cent for the year overall, the most in over two decades.

The Central Bank said last month it expected the impact of the second lockdown “to be less severe” than last year’s first version.

There have been signs that a rebound is on the cards this year, with exports in February up by almost 18 per cent, driven by increased overseas demand for Malaysia’s labour-intensive products, such as electronics and medical gloves.

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