KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s labour force situation improved in March as the number of people employed increased in the services, manufacturing and construction sectors, the first time after 11 months.
The Statistics Department said on Friday the number of people employed rose by 0.2% or 34,300 persons to 16.08 million from 16.05 million in February. There was a higher labour force participation rate (LFPR) at 68.6% (February 2021: 68.5%).
“During the month, the number of employed persons continued to increase by 0.4% (+58,700 persons) to 15.33 million persons (February 2021: 15.27 million persons), ” it said.
According to the Chief Statistician, Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin: “March 2021 marked a year after the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented beginning on March 18,2020 prompting a new norm since the spread of COVID-19 in Malaysia, ” he said.
Unlike MCO 1.0 where most economic activities as well as national and interstate borders were closed, March this year saw most states were in Recovery MCO while several others were in Conditional MCO with most of the economic activities continued to operate in compliance with strict standard operating procedures.
Mohd Uzir said since April 2020, the number of employed persons was on a year-on-year declining trend but for the first time after 11 consecutive months, the number of employed persons registered a positive year-on-year growth of 0.6% (+96,900 persons).
He explained the employment-to-population ratio which indicates the ability of an economy to create employment was 65.4% (February 2021: 65.2%).
He added the employed persons who were temporarily not working during the month continued to trend down to 121,000 persons (February 2021: 150,800 persons) following the continuous resumption of almost all business activities during the month.
By economic sector, the number of employed persons in services continued to increase in March 2021 primarily in wholesale & retail trade; food & beverages services, education and human health & social work activities.
Employed persons in manufacturing and construction sectors continued to see an upward trend whereas employment in agriculture and mining & quarrying sectors remained on a declining trend.
Mohd Uzir said March unemployment rate declined by 0.1 percentage point from February 2021 to record 4.7%.
The number of unemployed persons declined by 24,400 persons to record 753,200 persons (February 2021: 777,500 persons).
The actively unemployed persons which is defined as those who were available for work and were actively seeking jobs declined by 20,500 persons (-3.2%) to 626,900 persons (February 2021: 647,400 persons).
“More than half of the actively unemployed persons were categorised as those who were unemployed for less than three months (51.1%), while 10.9% of actively unemployed were in long-term unemployment of more than a year," he said.
For the first quarter of 2021, Mohd Uzir said the labour force continued to improve in response to the sign of economic recovery, registering 16.01 million persons.
The number of employed persons increased 0.5% to 15.24 million persons particularly in services, manufacturing and construction sector.
“Unemployment rate 1Q stood at 4.8% (4Q 2020: 4.8%) recording number of unemployed persons of 771,800 unemployed persons (4Q 2020: 760,700).
Mohd Uzir also pointed out in 1Q, there were 441,900 persons who worked less than 30 hours per week due to working conditions or insufficient work (4Q, 2020: 533,700 persons).
“Further recovery in Malaysia labour force may be more certain with the resumptions of most business activities coupled with the expansion of Covid-19 vaccination programme to a larger community.
“Nevertheless, this positive momentum will subject to the uncertainties in the country’s health condition and subsequently the economic performance, ” he pointed out.
“The rising number of daily Covid-19 cases in Malaysia had prompted the implementation of Restricted MCO in targeted areas and MCO in certain states namely Kelantan, Sabah, Selangor and. Kuala Lumpur in May 2021.
“These signalled that the labour force may face some challenges in the forthcoming months. However, with the encouraging labour market improvement observed in the first quarter of 2021, it is hope that the labour market will continue its recovery momentum albeit at a moderate pace, ” he said.