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Job openings plunge in March over coronavirus uncertainty

Hiring in service sector declines 49.8 percent

April 13, 2020 - 15:13 By Shin Ji-hye

Job openings at South Korean companies have fallen by a third in March on-year as businesses are struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, according to a local online job portal Monday.

Saramin released an analysis of job openings in the first quarter of 2019 and 2020. According to the results, the hiring rate saw a 32.7 percent drop in March as the prolonged COVID-19 spread has increased uncertainties. The number of the companies analyzed was not disclosed.

Considering that March is usually the most active period for hiring, the actual decline is of concern.

By industry, hiring in the service sector plummeted 49.8 percent, the biggest shock from the pandemic. It was followed by education, banking and finance, media and design, and sales and distribution, which all saw a more than 30 percent drop in new employment.

The rate of decline was higher in new hires than experienced workers. As of March, the number of job openings for new employees dropped 44.4 percent on-year, while employees with experience fell 28 percent.

By region, Jeju Island Province saw the highest rate of decrease in recruitment, down 47.5 percent, followed by Daegu City, which suffered the biggest coronavirus damage, with a 41.6 percent drop. All cities, including Seoul, Busan, Ulsan and Incheon, saw a drop of more than 20 percent.

According to another job portal firm Job Korea, seven out of 10 companies were found to have delayed or canceled hiring due to the outbreak.

The survey released late last month questioned 489 personnel managers about changes in recruitment in the aftermath of the coronavirus. It found 74.6 percent of respondents have delayed or canceled the hiring plan.

The biggest reason to cancel or postpone hiring was “to halt the spread of coronavirus” as part of social distancing. It was followed by “to watch the situation and proceed again,” “the expected slump in the future” and “the actual business slump, such as a drop in usage and sales.”

About 40.5 percent of the companies said they were “not sure yet” when to resume hiring and 34.2 percent said they would resume after the situation calmed down.

According to Statistics Korea on Monday, the number of unfilled jobs as of the last business day of February this year was 139,485, down 63,318 from a year ago. It was the largest decline in eight and a half years since August 2011, when the number stood at 64,377.

Unfilled jobs refer to those that are engaged in recruitment and can start work within 30 days.

By business size, the number of unfilled jobs at companies with more than 300 employees stood at 7,414, down 1,868 from the same month last year. For companies with fewer than 300 employees, the number fell by 61,451 in a year to 132,270.

“Although many studies show that statistics of unfilled jobs in Korea are less sensitive to the economy, several indicators are moving unusually in this (coronavirus) case. It’s hard to say for sure, but this labor trend must have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak,” said Sung Jae-min, chief of the Korea Labor Institute’s trend analysis division. 

By Shin Ji-hye (