The jobless rate edged up for the ninth straight month last month to 5.31 percent, with the seasonally adjusted figure hitting a new high of 5.33 percent, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.
The number of unemployed reached 578,000, the highest since the agency’s records began in 1978, and is expected to soar after the Lunar New Year holiday, it said.
“The jobless rate gained 0.28 percentage points, or 29,000 people, to 5.31 percent last month, the fourth-highest level in history,” DGBAS Deputy Director Huang Jiann-jong (黃建中) told reporters. “The pace would have accelerated without temporary job opportunities over the holidays.”
The seasonally adjusted figure rose for the 10th month to 5.33 percent, exceeding the average market expectation of 5.22 percent.
Huang cited the economic downturn for the poor figures.
A total of 160,000 workers lost their jobs to business closures or downsizing last month, while 1.19 million worked less than 35 hours a week, the report said.
Huang conceded for the first time that the jobless rate did not fully reflect the situation, as another 274,000 people could be considered unemployed as they worked less than 16 hours a week or wanted to work but had given up searching for a job.
“The broad jobless rate stands at 6.85 percent, with 1.26 million people affected,” Huang said. “The trend is worrying, as the jobless rate among breadwinners aged 45 to 64 surged by 53.05 percent.”
College graduates continued to see higher unemployment at 5.26 percent than those without college degrees.
Huang said the situation was unlikely to brighten in the months ahead because the jobless gauge lags behind other economic indicators by three to six months.
“The unemployment figure is expected to deteriorate unless the economy recovers,” Huang said. “Fortunately, the government has adopted various job-creation programs whose impact may be seen later this year.”
But 1111 Job Bank chief operating officer Ryan Wu (吳睿穎) said the programs were short-term and would not bring the jobless rate under the target of 4.5 percent.
Wu called for educational reforms to better equip young people for the job market.
Standard Chartered Bank chief economist Tony Phoo (符銘財) said the jobless rate would start to stabilize in the third quarter if the stimulus measures worked and exports stopped falling.