Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Unemployment rate hits 5.16% with influx of graduates

LOOKING FOR WORKDespite the increase in the jobless rate, the nation's statistics agency predicts the situation will improve later this year

AGENCIES , TAIPEI

The nation's jobless rate rose slightly last month to 5.16 percent as college graduates entered the job market, up 0.07 percent over June, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting, and Statistics (DGBAS) said in a statement yesterday.

There were 522,000 people out of work last month, up 10,000 from the previous month, the DGBAS said. The number of people who lost their jobs because of business closures and job cuts was 231,000 last month, compared with 243,000 in June, it added.

The agency attributed the slight increase in the jobless rate to an influx of 28,000 college graduates to the job market last month.

The DGBAS predicted that the jobless rate will decline to 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter, largely due to a government program inaugurated in April to tackle soaring unemployment.

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said last month the government plans to use a NT$20 billion budget, approved during the SARS outbreak, to provide 97,000 jobs by Sept. 15.

"The job market is starting to improve," Liu Tian-syh, a senior statistician, said at a DGBAS press conference. "Some benefits from the public-service expansion projects are also showing."

Employment in travel and related industries, such as airlines and restaurants, improved last month following the containment of SARS, he said.

Companies are also hiring more workers for expansion goals. AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), which is investing US$2.3 billion in a new factory to tap surging demand for flat televisions, plans to hire 1,000 people this year, the same number as last year. The world's fourth-largest maker of flat-panel displays can't find as many engineers as it needs, Chairman Lee Kun-yao (李焜耀) said recently.

"We're constantly searching for new employees," he said.

Taiwan used to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world -- between 2 percent and 3 percent -- but it has risen above 5 percent in recent years. The unemployment rate reached a record 5.35 percent last August.

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