Jobs growth at 13-month high a boost for Korea’s Moon

By BLOOMBERG

SEOUL • Jobs data provided some surprisingly good news for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is under fire over his economic policies — particularly his aggressive minimum wage hikes.

The unemployment rate in February fell to 3.7%, the lowest in eight months and better than economists’ forecast of 4.2%.

The country’s economy added 263,000 new jobs last month, the most since January last year. The hiring was mainly in services.

Moon has faced growing pressure as the economy has lost steam.

Exports have slumped in recent months, a result of cooling external demand. But hiring has been weak for about a year, and many blame the president’s minimum-wage increases.

On Monday, a delegation from the International Monetary Fund expressed concern about the pace of the wage hikes during a visit to Seoul, and called for a substantial supplementary budget to support growth.

Moon pledged to be a “jobs president” and to support growth by addressing growing inequality.

Last week, a poll by Gallup Korea showed his approval rate fell to 46%, near his all-time low of 45% reached in December.

South Korea’s worst air pollution in years and the breakdown of the US-North Korea nuclear talks are also weighing on his popularity. — Bloomberg