Although the unemployment rate slid last month, salaries failed to keep up as employers remained cautious about the economic outlook and rising operating costs, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.
The jobless rate, a lagging economic indicator, dropped to 4.17 percent last month from 4.25 percent in February and 4.48 percent in March last year, marking its lowest level since August 2008, the DGBAS said in a statement.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, a more accurate indicator of the long-term trend, dipped only slightly by 0.01 percentage points from the previous month to 4.14 percent last month, the statement said.
“The labor market remained stable last month, as the total number of unemployed decreased by a marginal 9,000 last month from February to 470,000,” Chen Min (陳憫), a deputy director of the statistics agency, told a press conference.
The number of people who lost seasonal or temporary jobs dropped by 4,000 last month, with those who lost jobs because of business closures or downsizing falling by 3,000, the statement showed.
However, the steady employment situation did not trickle down to salary levels.
DGBAS data showed that workers earned an average of NT$37,059 per month in the first two months of the year, up 1.77 percent from a year earlier.
However, adding in bonuses and other forms of compensation, the average monthly salary fell 2.1 percent from a year ago to NT$62,863 in January and February, as employers distributed lower year-end bonuses compared with the previous year because of a slower business momentum, DGBAS data showed.
Most Taiwanese companies distribute year-end bonuses around the Lunar New Year, which falls either in January or February.
On average, workers were paid 1.51 times their monthly salary as year-end bonuses for last year — lower than the 1.61 months recorded a year earlier.
Real wages — adjusted for inflation, which rose 1.29 percent in the first two months of the year — only increased 0.48 percent year-on-year during the period, the DGBAS said, adding that real wages including bonuses declined 3.34 percent from a year ago.
Chen said the data showed that pay raises remained negligible, as employers remained cautious about business prospects.
Henry Ho (何啟聖), a public relations director at online manpower agency 1111 Job Bank, said the government’s decision to raise electricity prices could be a major factor behind employers’ caution in raising salary levels.
“Local firms’ operating costs will increase when energy prices rise,” Ho said in an e-mailed statement.
With the Council of Labor Affairs planning to raise the minimum wage this year, companies that employ a large number of workers, such as the manufacturing and construction sectors, may continue to postpone plans to raise salaries or even cut their number of employees, Ho said.
Based on the agency’s latest online survey, conducted from April 6 to Friday last week, more than 71 percent of companies said they had no plans to offer pay increases in the first half of the year because of their bearish view on the economic outlook.
Meanwhile, 28.57 percent said they would do so by an average of 6.45 percent, the survey showed.