Unemployment may improve to 4%


UOB Global Economics & Markets Research projects Malaysia’s unemployment rate to edge lower to 4% by end of 2021.

It said despite the extension of movement restrictions and interstate travel ban, January-February’s job data suggests that the labour market is stabilising.

“Other supportive factors include more economic activities restarting in March, lifting of the 30% work from office limit from April 1, ongoing fiscal support including hiring and upskilling initiatives, and government’s pledge of no blanket Movement Control Order (MCO),” the group said in a note yesterday.

According to the Statistics Department of Malaysia, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.8% in February this year compared to 4.9% in January with the number of unemployed persons declining by 5,000 persons, or 0.6% to 777,500 persons (January: 782,500 persons).

Chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the labour market continued to recover with encouraging signs of the economy as reflected by the Leading Index for January 2021, which posted year-on-year increase of 8.2%.

“Although the MCO had been extended to Feb 18, 2021, in all states except for Sarawak, more businesses were allowed to operate with strict standard operating procedures encompassing all segments of the retail sector; sports and recreational activities; and other private services to ensure economic sustainability, especially among small businesses.

“In addition, the first phase of the vaccination programme which started on Feb 24 this year provided some relief to the businesses and community,” he said in a statement.

The number of employed persons rose 33,300 persons month-on-month to 15.27 million persons (January 2021: 15.24 million persons), recording an upward trend for three consecutive months.

By economic sector, the number of employed persons in services sector continuously increased mainly in the wholesale and retail trade; education and human health and social work activities, while in tourism-related industry remained on a declining trend.

The number of employed persons in the manufacturing and construction sectors stayed positive, whereas the agriculture, mining and quarrying sectors recorded a reduction.

Mohd Uzir said employed persons who were temporarily not working during the month were reduced to 150,800 persons (January 2021: 158,900 persons).

“This group of persons, who were most likely not able to work, were not categorised as unemployed as they had work to return to.

“The employment-to-population ratio, which indicates the ability of an economy to create employment remained stagnant at 65.2% in February 2021,” he added.

The actively unemployed persons, which is defined as persons who were available for work and were actively looking for a job, reduced by 9,800 persons to record 647,400 persons (January 2021: 657,200 persons).

Those who were unemployed for less than three months accounted for 50.6% of the actively unemployed. Meanwhile, 11.3% of actively unemployed were in long-term unemployment of more than a year.

On the overall labour force situation, Mohd Uzir said in spite of extension of the MCO and continued interstate travel restriction, things are gradually improving since early March 2021.

In addition, he said the preprimary and primary education sectors began to reopen in stages benefitting school-related activities particularly school bus services, school canteens, as well as stationery and book shops.

“This situation coupled with the resumption of more economic activities since February 2021 might encourage more demand in the economy and in turn will have a positive impact on the labour market.

“With the continuous economic recovery path, the labour demand may continue to expand marginally and the labour supply remains competitive,” he concluded.