Tue, Jan 24, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Jobless figures fall to five-year low

AFP WITH BLOOMBERG

The unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 3.86 percent last month from 3.94 percent in November last year, due to a decline in first-time job seekers and reduced business closures, the government said yesterday.

The unemployment rate for the whole of last year averaged 4.13 percent, down 0.31 percentage points from 4.44 percent a year earlier, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said.

The December figure was down from 4.09 percent a year earlier, the DGBAS said.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the December unemployment rate came in at 4 percent, unchanged from the preceding month but down from 4.21 percent a year earlier, it said.

Some 403,000 people were jobless last month, a fall of 8,000 from November, the DGBAS said.

Major decreases included 3,000 in the number of first-time job seekers and 4,000 in the number of those who lost their jobs due to business closures or cutbacks, it said.

On a year-on-year basis, the total number of jobless people last month fell by 19,000, including a decline of 16,000 in the number of those who lost their jobs due to business closures or cutbacks, and a fall of 7,000 in the number of jobless due to the termination of seasonal or other temporary work.

The eligible workforce last month rose by 5,000 from November and was up by 131,000 from a year earlier at 10.44 million, it said.

The DGBAS said the labor participation rate last month stood at 57.85 percent, down 0.03 percentage points from November.

For the whole of last year, the labor participation rate averaged 57.78 percent, up 0.12 percentage points from a year earlier, it added.

"A low jobless rate should help boost consumption in the first half," said Vickie Hsieh, chief economist at President Securities Corp (統一證券).

"What concerns me is that inflation worries might restrict spending growth," she said.

Consumer prices rose for the first time in four months last month, underpinning expectations that the central bank will raise interest rates this quarter.

Large-scale hiring by companies such as Corning Inc and China Steel Corp (中鋼) also contributed to lower the jobless rate.

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