South Korea’s employment kept falling for six straight months through August amid the continued economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak, statistical office data showed on Wednesday.

The number of those employed was 27,085,000 in August, down 274,000 from a year earlier, according to Statistics Korea.

It continued to contract for the sixth consecutive month with declines of 195,000 in March, 476,000 in April, 392,000 in May, 352,000 in June and 277,000 in July respectively.

The falling pace slowed after peaking in April, but employment may reduce faster in September amid the COVID-19 resurgence here.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew in triple digits since Aug. 14 due to cluster infections in the Seoul metropolitan area linked to church services and a massively rally in central Seoul on Aug. 15.

The COVID-19 resurgence was not reflected in the August employment data as the job survey was conducted on Aug. 9-15.

People refrained from outside activity, such as shopping and eating-out, hitting hard the services industry.

The number of jobs in the wholesale and retail sector tumbled 176,000 in August from a year ago, with employment in the eatery and lodging and the education services sectors skidding 169,000 and 89,000 each.

The pandemic fallout went beyond the services industry. The number of employees in the manufacturing industry slumped 50,000 in August, after sliding 65,000 in June and 53,000 in July respectively.

Companies let employees to go on an unpaid leave or be laid off amid uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of those who took a leave of absence was 846,000 in August, up 143,000, or 20.3 percent, from a year earlier.

The number of irregular workers dropped 318,000 in the month, and the reading for day laborers retreated 78,000. The number of regular workers increased 282,000.

Employment among those in their 60s or higher grew 384,000, but the numbers for those in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s all declined amid the falling population in those age groups, caused by the rapidly aging population.

Hiring rate for those aged 15 or higher fell 1.0 percentage point from a year earlier to 60.4 percent in August. The OECD-method employment rate for those aged 15-64 slipped 1.1 percentage points to 65.9 percent.

The employment rate gauges the percentage of working people to the working-age population, or those aged 15 or above. Given the aging population, it is used as an alternative to show the labor market conditions more precisely.

The number of those unemployed was 864,000 in August, up 6,000 from the same month of last year. Jobless rate added 0.1 percentage point to 3.1 percent last month.

The expanded jobless rate, which reflects labor market conditions more accurately, rose 2.3 percentage points over the year to 13.3 percent in August. The figure for those aged 15-29 gained 3.1 percentage points to 24.9 percent.

The official unemployment rate refers to those who are immediately available for work but fail to get a job for the past four weeks despite efforts to actively seek a job.

The expanded jobless rate adds those who are discouraged from searching a job, those who work part-time against their will to work full-time, and those who prepare to get a job after college graduation, to the official jobless rate.

The number of economically inactive population, who had no willingness to seek a job and remained unemployed, was 16,864,000 in August, up 534,000 from a year earlier.

The so-called “take-a-rest” group, which replied that they took a rest during a job survey period, increased 290,000 from a year earlier to 2,462,000 in August.

It is considered important as the group can include those who are unemployed or too discouraged to search for work an extended period of time.
The number of discouraged job seekers advanced 139,000 to 682,000 in the cited month.

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