53,000 Jobs Lost in Hospitality Industry Amid Epidemic

  • By Gwak Rae-geon, Choi Won-woo

    April 01, 2020 12:49

    Some 163,000 jobs were created in February compared to a year earlier, the lowest increase since the government started tallying such statistics in 2009. The average job growth ranges just under 300,000 to 500,000 a month.

    The Ministry of Employment and Labor on Tuesday announced the first employment figures since Jan. 20 when the first coronavirus infection was confirmed in Korea.

    Hardest hit was the hospitality sector with a loss of 53,000 jobs or 4.2 percent on-year as the coronavirus epidemic kept people at home.

    The epidemic also hurt business facility management, which includes travel agencies, rental car companies, cleaning services, security companies and call centers. They lost 12,000 jobs or one percent.

    People wait in line to apply for unemployment benefits at an employment office in Seoul on Tuesday. /Yonhap

    The arts and sports service sector, which includes performance halls and fitness centers, lost 6,000 jobs or two percent. The three sectors account for 14 percent of Korea's GDP but a whopping 21 percent of Korea's total labor force, although average wages are relatively low.

    Businesses with fewer than 30 workers suffered most, with jobs growing by only 110,000 in February compared to 228,000 in January.

    Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province were hit by a virulent outbreak among members of the Shincheonji sect. The number of jobs shrank by 2,000 in North Gyeongsang Province and by 1,000 in Daegu.

    But the worst is yet to come. Vice Employment and Labor Minister Im Seo-jeong said, "The February data cannot be viewed as fully reflecting the coronavirus situation. We expect the real malaise to be reflected in March data."

    Even manufacturing, which was initially less affected by the epidemic, saw job growth grind to a complete halt.

    Sung Tae-yoon at Yonsei University said, "Employers are trying to hang on by laying off workers or making them take leave, but things are going to become increasingly difficult. Small businesses and low-income workers will be the first to feel the impact." 

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