Malaysia’s March unemployment rate rises to 3.9% on MCO effect 

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KUALA LUMPUR (May 8): Malaysia’s unemployment rate jumped to 3.9% in March, with the number of unemployed persons increasing 17.1% year-on-year (y-o-y) to 610,500.

This compares with the unemployment rate of 3.3% in February.

With that, the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) said the unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2020 (1Q20) also rose to 3.5% — the highest since 2Q17.

Earlier, Bank Negara Malaysia estimated that the unemployment rate will shoot up to 4% this year from 3.3% in 2019.

The highest unemployment rate for Malaysia was recorded at 7.4% in 1986. 

Chief Statistician Malaysia Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said in a statement that the increase in the unemployment rate was mainly attributed to the adverse impact of the movement control order (MCO) on the labor market.

In terms of labour participation, the number of labour forces in March decreased 0.2% month-on-month (m-o-m) to 15.84 million, while the number of employed persons decreased 0.7% to 15.23 million.

Of the total number of employed persons, 2.81 million were own account workers such as small traders and entrepreneurs who earn daily income and wages.

DOSM said these people were exposed to the risk of unemployment and work loss during the MCO because part of them were unable to work or run their business.

There was also a significant jump of more than three times in the number of employed persons who were working less than 30 hours per week, to 1.12 million persons in March as compared to 366,300 persons in the previous month.

Meanwhile, the labour force participation rate (LFPR) in 1Q20 fell 0.3% to 68.8% as compared to 4Q19. On a quarterly basis, both male and female LFPR decreased 0.3% to 80.8% and 55.8%, respectively.

The age group that recorded the highest male LFPR was 35 to 44 years (97.5%), followed by 25 to 34 years (95.5%) and 45 to 54 years (94.7%); while the highest female LFPR in the labour market was in the 25 to 34 years age group (75.4%), followed by 35 to 44 years (68.4%) and 45 to 54 years (58.5%).      

Meanwhile, semi-skilled workers dominated the labour market (59%), followed by skilled workers (27.8%) and low-skilled workers (13.2%).

The number of employed persons with tertiary education increased 1.9% to 4.53 million as compared to 4.43 million 4Q19.