The unemployment rate climbed to 4.03 percent last month as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to bite, surpassing 4 percent for the first time in the past 42 months, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.
Last month’s figure is the highest for April in the past seven years, DGBAS data showed.
The jobless rate expanded for the third consecutive month after posting 3.64 percent, 3.7 percent and 3.72 percent respectively in the first three months of this year, DGBAS senior executive officer Chen Hui-hsin (陳惠欣) told a media briefing.
The gauge accelerated last month with a monthly gain of 0.31 percent, the highest for a single month in the past 11 years, as more firms in the service sector, hurt by the outbreak, dismissed employees while cutting back on operations or shutting down, Chen said.
The number of unemployed people last month was 481,000, an increase of 36,000 from a month earlier, mostly due to business downsizing and factory closures, the DGBAS said.
The number of employed people fell to 11.46 million, down 46,000 from March, with a decline of 34,000 in the service industry, 9,000 in the manufacturing industry and 3,000 in the agriculture industry, the data showed.
Among service industries, tourism and dining lost 10,000 employees from March, customer service workers fell by 4,000, entertainment and recreation decreased 3,000, finance lost 2,000 and transportation dropped 1,000, the DGBAS data showed.
The healthcare and real-estate industries bucked the trend, each gaining 1,000 employees from a month earlier, the data showed.
After seasonal adjustments, the jobless rate rose 4.1 percent, the biggest rise since January 2014, Chen said.
The number of people whose work hours decreased rose, suggesting that local companies are contracting operations to cope with declining business, the DGBAS said.
The number of people working fewer than 35 hours per week surged to 400,000 last month, increasing 139,000 from 261,000 in March, Chen said.
The gauge usually predicts joblessness, as firms usually reduce working hours before resorting to layoffs when a situation fails to improve, the agency said.
The rise in the unemployment rate last month was not surprising, as the DGBAS forecast that the pandemic would continue to dampen economic activity after more than 400 people in Taiwan were infected, Chen said.
The agency expects the gauge to improve this month, given that the outbreak is diminishing domestically and private consumption is gradually recovering, although the situation in other nations would still affect the local economy, Chen said.
Taiwan’s unemployment rate is lower than the US’ 14.7 percent, Canada’s 13 percent, Hong Kong’s 5.2 percent, but higher than South Korea’s 3.8 percent and Japan’s 2.5 percent, the data showed.
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