The labor market was stable last month despite a slowdown in exports and GDP growth, with the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remaining flat from the past 12 months, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.
The unemployment rate rose to 3.72 percent last month from 3.64 percent in January, as more people quit and temporary contracts were terminated ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday last month.
After seasonal adjustments, the unemployment gauge was 3.71 percent, down slightly from 3.72 percent recorded in January, the agency said.
“Given that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has hovered between 3.69 and 3.73 percent in the past 12 months, we can say that the labor market has remained stable,” DGBAS Deputy Director Pan Ning-hsin (潘寧馨) told a news conference in Taipei.
Lackluster exports, which last month contracted for the fourth consecutive month and showed the biggest annual decline of 8.8 percent, had limited impact on the labor market, Pan said.
“Workers in the manufacturing sector are most vulnerable to worsening exports, but we thankfully did not see the unemployment rate rise despite declining exports, as the number of employees in the manufacturing sector totaled 3.07 million last month, up 0.46 percent year-on-year,” Pan said.
However, if exports continue to decline, the number of manufacturing jobs is likely to grow at a slower pace, similar to when exports plunged in 2015 and 2016, he said.
The average number of manufacturing jobs rose by 4,000 from 2015 to 2016, much less than the average annual growth of 15,000, DGBAS data showed.
Although the unemployment rate remained stable, Taiwanese employers last year became more conservative about recruitment amid economic uncertainties, Pan said.
The number of unemployed people usually peaks in August as university students graduate, but gradually declines before the Lunar New Year, Pan said.
From August last year to last month, the number decreased by 18,000, much less than the 23,000 recorded in the same period a year earlier, Pan said, adding that it was also a three-year low.
“We hope that employers will hire more people this year, as some uncertainties have diminished,” he said.
The jobless rate for the first two months of the year stood at 3.68 percent, up 0.01 percentage points from the same period a year earlier, while the labor participation rate increased 0.19 percentage points to 59.08 percent, DGBAS data showed.
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