Worldwide Job Creation Seen Weak in '05

Global job creation will be weak this year, threatening to drag down economic recovery as companies take on workers at a pace that lags economic growth, the International Labor Office (search) said on Monday.

Last year, global economic growth of 5 percent brought the global rate of unemployment down to 6.1 percent — or 184.7 million people — from 6.3 percent in 2003, only the second time since 1994 that joblessness has declined, the United Nations (search) body said.

"The growth of global employment of 47.7 million, an increase of only 1.7 percent in the total number of jobs worldwide, remained disappointing and employment as a share of the working age population stayed virtually unchanged at 61.8 percent in 2004," the ILO said.

ILO specialist Marva Corley said the global economy was poorly positioned to transform the business boom into a jobs boom, saying Europe's record of below-average economic growth and weak job creation was particulary poor.

"The outlook for 2005 is not particularly bright," Corley said. "With lower economic growth, the job creation ability of Europe has been pretty static, and in some cases dismal."

Germany, the world's third largest economy, now has over five million unemployed, the highest level since the economic chaos of 1933. Expected economic growth of 1.6 percent this year is not expected to improve labor markets significantly.

The lack of job creation, coupled with soaring oil prices, will dull world economic growth this year, Corley said.

"In 2005, I think growth will slow down partly due to the lack of job creation and partly due to the higher oil cost," she said.

Also threatening the outlook is the economic disaster left in the wake of the Dec. 26 Asian tsunami (search), which wiped out jobs for over a million workers in Sri Lanka and Indonesia alone. The AIDS epidemic is also expected to rob many countries of economic dynamism and job creation, the ILO said.

The Middle East and North Africa topped the jobless rankings with 11.7 percent unemployment in 2004, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa at 10.1 percent, Latin America at 8.6 percent, central and eastern Europe outside the European Union at 8.3 percent and developed nations and the EU at 7.2 percent.

East Asia had the lowest jobless level at 3.3 percent, the report said.

The ILO underscored the plight of the working poor, saying 2.8 billion workers still did not have enough earnings power to lift themselves above the poverty line designated at $2 income per day.