KUALA LUMPUR | Unemployment rose to 3.9 per cent in March, the highest it has been in a decade, according to data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) that hinted at the still-unseen ramifications of the unprecedented nationwide lockdown.

In its release today of key statistics of the labour force in Malaysia for March 2020, the DOSM noted that there were 610,500 unemployed individuals from the Malaysian workforce in that month alone

While the data did not contain projections, joblessness is expected to be significantly higher for April, the entirety of which was spent under the MCO, as well as May when most businesses have yet to fully resume.

“Unemployed persons increased by 17.1 per cent to 610.5 thousands as compared to 521.3 thousands in the same month in 2019.

“The unemployment rate in March 2020 increased to 3.9 per cent, highest since June 2010 (3.6 per cent). The high unemployment rate in March 2020 reflects the negative impact of MCO on the labour market.

“Unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) in March 2020 also increased to 3.9 per cent as compared to 3.3 per cent in the previous month,” the DOSM said on its website.

These figures are despite the MCO being in place for only about half of the month of March, where non-essential businesses had to temporarily close down.

The effects of the MCO on the April and May unemployment rates are yet to be seen. The MCO which was initially meant to be for a two-week period from March 18 to March 31 was further extended three times until May 12, with Malaysia now under a conditional MCO (CMCO) since May 4 where most businesses have been allowed to reopen if Covid-19 prevention measures are practised.