A Malaysian minister said Thursday that more than 30,000 local and foreign workers had lost their jobs this year amid the global slowdown.
Deputy human resources minister Maznah Mazlan told state news agency Bernama the figure of 30,650 comprised 23,149 workers who were laid off, while the rest resigned. There was no explanation why so many had quit.
The latest figure came after a labour group said late March that more than 26,000 people had lost their jobs in 2009 as employers are forced to cut back under pressure amid the worst global financial crisis in decades.
An economist said the unemployment rate is expected to go up in the coming months but remained positive that it will be lower than the official 4.5 percent projected for this year. Unemployment for 2008 was 3.7 percent.
"It hasn't reached an alarming level," Yeah Kim Leng, an economist with ratings agency RAM Holdings, told AFP.
"We expect the number to rise 50,000 further by year end but given the improving outlook in industrial production as well as some stabilisation in global demand, it may not reach the 4.5 percent by year end," he added.
The government in March unveiled a stimulus package worth 16.2 billion dollars but warned the export-driven economy could still shrink by 1.0 percent this year.
An independent think-tank, however, said Wednesday that Malaysia's export-driven economy will shrink by 2.2 percent this year, citing gloomy business and consumer confidence.
Official data released Thursday showed Malaysia's manufacturing sales, which are a key driver of the economy, dived 26.1 percent in February from a year earlier while people employed in the sector fell 6.5 percent from a year ago.