Asia’s fourth-largest economy added about 1.13 million positions in the first month of 2022 from a year earlier, the most since March 2000, led by the medical and welfare industries.
The better-than-expected data from Statistics Korea underline the economy’s resilience during the pandemic, although the increase was mainly due to a low base and was supported by the government’s fiscal spending.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate slid to 3.6% in January, versus 3.8% in December.
The country lost jobs for a 12th straight month from March 2020 to Feb 2021, and the number of employed people fell at the sharpest pace in more than two decades in January 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic took a toll on the labour market.
Jobs filled in accommodation, restaurants, transport and warehousing rose a combined 249,000.
Those in the wholesale and retail industry continued to shrink due to surging Covid-19 cases and strict restrictions to fight the virus.
Wednesday’s data comes as the country’s presidential candidates formally began campaigning for the March election in what is set to be the tightest race in 20 years between the two main parties.
To shore up the economy, the government has allocated about a third of the total government expenditure for welfare and jobs, and plans to spend about 70% of the annual fiscal budget in the first half of 2022.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell