(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details; ADDS photo)
By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea reported the largest job additions in more than 20 years in 2022, data showed Wednesday, as the country gradually returned to pre-pandemic normalcy.
The number of employed people came to 28.08 million in 2022, up 816,000 from a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.
It marked the largest number since 2000, when the nation reported an on-year increase of 882,000 jobs.
Last year's reading also marked a significant rise from the 370,000 growth tallied in 2021.
"In 2022, the recovery of everyday life, the increase of activities and exports, and the rise in the demand for care services led to the overall increase in the number of people with jobs," Kong Mi-suk, a senior Statistics Korea official, told reporters.
"But due to the economic conditions from home and abroad, and following the base effect, the growth has slowed in the second half," Kong added.
By sector, jobs were mostly created in the health care, social welfare, manufacturing, accommodation and restaurant industries.
In contrast, those in the wholesale, retail, finance and insurance sectors lost ground.
People in their 60s accounted for 452,000, or 55 percent, of the on-year gains in jobs in 2022.
The country's jobless rate came to 2.9 percent in 2022, down 0.8 percentage point on-year.
The employment rate among those aged 15 and above came to 62.1 percent in 2022, up 1.6 percentage points from a year earlier. It was an all-time high level since the agency started compiling the data in 1963.
In December, the country added 509,000 jobs on-year, with the total reaching 27.8 million, the data also showed.
South Korea added jobs for the 22nd straight month in December, but the growth continued to slow for the seventh month in a row amid concerns over an economic recession.
Last month, new jobs were mainly created in the accommodation, restaurant, health care and manufacturing industries, the data showed.
The overall growth in December was primarily led by those aged 60 and older, which accounted for 440,000. Those in their 50s and 30s followed with 110,000 and 42,000, respectively.
The number of jobs for people in their 40s and 20s, on the other hand, dropped 57,000 and 21,000, respectively, the data showed.
The latest data came amid the Bank of Korea's aggressive monetary tightening aimed at taming inflation. A hike in borrowing costs typically weighs down employment as businesses and households cut their spending.
The central bank has raised its benchmark policy rate by a combined 2.75 percentage points since August 2021 to the current 3.25 percent to bring inflation down.
The finance ministry, meanwhile, anticipated the number of employed people is expected to rise at a narrower margin of just 100,000 on-year in 2023, citing the slowing economy and the country's falling population.
The employment rate is anticipated to remain nearly flat from last year, while the unemployment rate is set to slightly increase, the ministry added, pointing out 2022 was an "exceptional" year.
The state-run Korea Development Institute estimated the number of employed people is expected to rise just 80,000 on-year in 2023.