The number of South Koreans who have been jobless for six months or more reached 112,000 in the first quarter of this year.
The figure is a 57.1 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, and is higher than the 47 percent tallied in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to Statistics Korea data.
The agency attributed the rise to seasonal factors, but economists say it is due to the prolonged economic slump.
Consequently, companies are more reticent to hire. Sixteen of South Korea’s top 30 family-controlled conglomerates have said they plan to hire fewer employees this year compared to 2015, with their total new hires for this year forecast to drop 4.2 percent from a year ago.
Last week, the Bank of Korea cut this year’s economic growth outlook to 2.8 percent from an earlier 3 percent. In 2015, Asia’s fourth-largest economy grew 2.6 percent on-year, compared with a 3.3-percent expansion a year earlier.
Meanwhile, the country’s headline jobless rate dropped to 4.3 percent in March from 4.9 percent in February, with that for young adults inching down to 11.8 percent from the previous month’s all-time high of 12.5 percent.