The unemployment rate is expected to have inched closer to 6 percent last month and is likely to break that level this month even though the rate of economic decline has slowed, analysts said yesterday.
The latest number is to be released today by the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS). The unemployment rate climbed for the 10th straight month in February to 5.75 percent, the highest since the agency started the survey in 1978.
Council of Labor Affairs Minister Jennifer Wang (王如玄) said yesterday that the jobless figure had climbed higher but had yet to hit 6 percent last month as first-time unemployment subsidy applicants declined to 28,000 from more than 30,000 in the previous two months.
Liang Kuo-yuan (梁國源), president of Polaris Research Institute (寶華綜合經究院), said he shared the labor council chief’s observations and that the jobless rate likely hovered around 5.97 percent last month.
Liang said the slowdown in unemployment growth was because of improved export orders, which continued to shrink from last year, but at a slower rate. Export orders fell 22.27 percent year-on-year to US$20.12 billion in February, compared with a 41.67 percent plunge to US$17.68 billion in January, Ministry of Economic Affairs data showed. The ministry will disclose last month’s export order tallies tomorrow.
Liang said it is only a matter of time before the unemployment rate breaks the 6 percent level.
“If it did not happen in March, it definitely will in April,” Liang said by telephone.
The government, while having introduced several job creation programs, is counting on a revival in global demand to boost exports and bring down unemployment. It has provided short-term jobs and internship opportunities as well as encouraged college students to extend their education.
Liang said many of the unemployed would have difficulty landing jobs even after the recession is over because the labor market has gone through a structural change.
“It is ill-advised to focus on unemployment figures when many people are suffering,” he said.
The number of unemployed reached 624,000 in February, also a record high in survey history. Johnny Chen (陳擎宏), deputy manager of the economics and industry research department at First Commercial Bank (第一銀行), said the unemployment rate would keep rising and peak in the summer when college graduates and part-time job seekers pour into the labor market.
Chen described the government’s endeavor to contain the unemployment rate at 4.5 percent as “mission impossible.”
“It will be an uphill struggle to keep the unemployment rate at 6 percent, let alone 4.5 percent,” Chen said by telephone.
However, Chen said that massive layoffs and unpaid leave had probably stabilized, owing to rush orders from China and the slowing rate of the global economic decline, based on data at home and abroad.