More than 600,000 people were left jobless in March, due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) enforced to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Statistics Department revealed today.

In a statement, chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin revealed that the unemployment rate increased to 3.9% - the highest in the country since June 2010, where it was 3.6%.

"About 610,500 were left jobless in March 2020, compared to 521,300 in the same period last year.

"This high unemployment rate in mainly attributed to the adverse impact of the MCO on the labour market," Mohd Uzir added.

The working population in March this year was 15.23 million, out of which 2.81 million were self-employed, including traders and freelancers.

Mohd Uzir pointed out that it is this group that were particularly exposed to the risk of unemployment, as most of them were unable to ply their trade during the MCO.

According to him further, graduates accounted for 29.3% of the total number of the unemployed. The most affected were youths aged between 15 and 30, with 6.9% unemployment rate.

This was followed by those aged between 31 and 45 and people aged between 46 and 64, with 1.4% and 1.1%, respectively.

The statistics also showed that semi-skilled workers dominated the labour market with 59%, followed by skilled workers (27.8%) and low-skilled workers (13.2%).

There was also negative growth in the wholesale and retail sales market.

The MCO was enforced on March 18 and was supposed to last until March 13. However, it was later extended twice, until May 12. The government however, later enforced the Conditional MCO where most businesses were allowed to reopen to restart the country's economy, provided they followed COVID-19 preventive measures in their operations.

COVID-19 has so far affected 6,467 people in the country, and killed 107.

Globally, the infection tally has surpassed 3.9 million and more than 270,000 people have died from the disease.