Tue, Mar 24, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Jobless rate reaches record high

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The unemployment rate last month rose for a 10th month to its highest level — 5.75 percent — since record-keeping began in 1978.

The number of unemployed hit 624,000 after more business closures and the post-holiday effect, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted figure rose for an 11th month to a record 5.63 percent, indicating job losses increased even though officials and pundits voiced optimism that the decline would slow down this month because of rush orders for electronic products.

“The jobless rate gained 0.44 percentage points, or 46,000 people, to 5.75 percent in February, the highest in [survey] history,” DGBAS Deputy Director Huang Jiann-jong (黃建中) told an afternoon press briefing.

Huang attributed the hike primarily to more business closures and the loss of short-term jobs after the Lunar New Year, which added 38,000 people to the jobless rolls.

He voiced greater concern about the sustained rise in the real unemployment tally, saying that the number increased 0.3 percentage points to 5.63 percent last month.

“The trend showed the job market contracted further,” Huang said. “A reversal is unlikely unless the [seasonally] adjusted increase is kept under 0.1 percentage points.”

Huang said the unemployment rate would have been above 6.1 percent if the government had not adopted job-creation programs.

Public sectors have hired an extra 77,000 contract workers since October, the DGBAS report showed.

Meanwhile, “discouraged” job-seekers stood at 189,000 while people working 16 hours or less a week reached 99,000, pushing the broad jobless rate to 7.32 percent, the survey said. Unemployment affects some 1.36 million people, the statistics showed.

Huang said the unemployment rate might decelerate this month with an inflow of last-minute export orders.

Cheng Cheng-mount (鄭貞茂), chief economist at Citigroup Inc Taiwan, agreed: “Rush orders have caused some large tech firms to scale down their headcount reduction plans, suggesting the rise in unemployment rate could slow in coming months.”

The job creation program is expected to create another 50,000 jobs this year, Cheng said in a note.

The total number of employed people fell 79,000 to 10.22 million last month, the biggest drop since January 2002, the report said.

The average monthly take-home wage dipped for a fourth month to NT$35,130 (NT$1,039) in January, down 0.79 percent from last month, the report said.

Also See: Sales down in retail, bar sectors

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