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Number of full-time workers plunges in March amid pandemic

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The true impact of the pandemic on the job market in March was far more serious than government data would suggest, a local research institute said Wednesday.

The Korea Economic Research Institute said a team led by professor Park Ki-sung from Sungshin Women’s University reworked the raw material used to calculate the employment statistics, instead using the Full-Time Equivalent method to determine actual employment growth. Under the FTE method, an employee working 40 hours a week counts as one full-time worker. Statistics Korea, in contrast, takes a head count approach.

Based on the FTE calculations, actual employment growth in March was down 7.6 percent from the same month a year earlier. The figure is significantly steeper than the 0.7 percent drop reported by Statistics Korea and comparable to the 7 percent decline seen during the Asian financial crisis, KERI said.

Park said the FTE employment statistics showed the need for bolder measures to support citizens’ livelihoods.

The face-to-face service sector was found to have taken the hardest hit from COVID-19, due to the social distancing movement and fear of coronavirus infection.

Statistics Korea reported a year-on-year decline of 4.6 percent in the number of people employed in wholesale and retail sales. For the lodging and restaurant business, the figure was 4.9 percent and for education services it was 5.4 percent.

However, by the FTE method the number of employed workers fell about twice as sharply, the report showed. The rate of decrease was 11.2 percent for wholesale and retail sales, 14.6 percent for the lodging and restaurant business, and 24.9 percent for education service. 

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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