Unemployment up to 3.5% in Q1

The partial lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 had a negative effect on businesses which were forced to close down for months.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s unemployment rate went up to 3.5% in the first quarter of 2020 from 3.3% last year, International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said today.

Speaking at the launch of the country’s productivity report for 2020, he said the rise in unemployment reflected the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw businesses disrupted, premises closed and supply chains cut off under the movement control order (MCO).

“In this regard, I would like to reiterate that our incremental measures in dealing with the pandemic leading to this latest stage – the recovery MCO – have borne productive results,” he added.

He also said the labour force had increased by 2% last year to nearly 15.6 million people.

Labour productivity performance meanwhile grew by 2.2% last year compared to 3.4% in 2018.

“In terms of labour productivity per person, Malaysia recorded productivity of US$68,473, ahead of Thailand, Indonesia, China and Vietnam,” he added.

However, he warned against complacency, noting that Malaysia still lagged behind South Korea and Japan while China and Vietnam have recorded rapid and consistent growth in productivity.

He said significant productivity growth was recorded in the professional services (6%) and tourism (5.3%) sectors.

Chemical and chemical products, and machinery and equipment meanwhile declined in sectoral productivity by -2.1% and -2%.

However, Azmin said the sub-sectors of agro-food, electrical and electronics, retail and food and beverage, information and communication technology, and private healthcare continued to register growth.

In the first quarter of 2020, he said, Malaysia managed to escape contraction, achieving a narrow growth of 0.7%.

He said further contraction could be expected in the second quarter due to Covid-19 and the economic consequences of the government’s measures to curb the outbreak.

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