South Korea unemployment rate hits three-year high in jobseeker surge

SEOUL Tue Mar 11, 2014 8:35pm EDT

Job seekers look at help-wanted advertisements at a job fair in Seoul September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

Job seekers look at help-wanted advertisements at a job fair in Seoul September 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's seasonally adjusted unemployment spiked to a three-year high in February as job seekers flooded the labor market and the number of people in work hit its highest level in 15 years in an encouraging signal for the country's economy.

Data from South Korea's statistics agency showed on Wednesday that the unemployment rate for the month rose to 3.9 percent from 3.2 percent in January. An additional 308,800 people entered the jobs market in February - the highest monthly increase on record dating back to June 1999 - whereas only 112,800 jobs were newly created.

The rate of people in employment out of the total population aged 15 or older rose to 60.6 percent in February, also the highest since June 1999, from 60.4 percent in January, the Statistics Korea data showed. All figures are adjusted for seasonal patterns.

While the February unemployment rate hit its highest since touching a same 3.9 percent in March 2011, "The data suggests that the job market overall is starting to improve as the economy rebounds," said HI Investment economist Park Sang-hyun.

The government of President Park Geun-hye is pushing to boost employment, particularly among women and the youth, as part of its efforts to ensure a recovery in domestic demand.

The central bank currently forecasts economic growth to accelerate to 3.8 percent this year from an estimated 2.8 percent last year, in line with the expected global economic recovery.

(Reporting by Choonsik Yoo and Se Young Lee; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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