Taiwan's April jobless claims fall

TAIPEI: Unemployment benefit claims in Taiwan fell for the first time in eight months in April, amid signs the island's recession may be bottoming out, according to figures released Wednesday.

Last month's jobless claims fell to 114,000 from 124,000 in March, the first decline since September, said the Employment and Vocational Training Administration.

Unemployment hit a record 5.81 percent in March as companies in the export-dependent nation slashed jobs due to slumping demand amid the global slowdown.

Unemployment figures for April are due out later this month.

The latest figures come as Taipei began sounding optimistic notes that the economy may have seen the worst of the downturn and could be on track for a recovery.

Vice-Premier Paul Chiu said Tuesday "the Taiwan economy has passed the most difficult period."

Taiwan has been hit hard by the global crisis and suffered a contraction of 8.36 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, its worst performance since 1961.

But Chen Tain-jy, chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development, the island's top economic planning body, forecast "recovery may start in the fourth quarter (of 2009), or even the third quarter."

The economy is forecast to contract 3.59 percent year on year in 2009 due to weak demand at home and abroad, the Taiwan-based economic think-tank Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research has said.

In February the government predicted a contraction of 2.97 percent for the year.