Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan told a parliamentary meeting the job losses this year would be mostly in export processing sectors such as garments and footwear.

At the end of 2008, Vietnam's workforce stood at 45 million, with roughly half employed in agriculture, forestry and fishery. Unemployment was 4.65 percent, the ministry said, implying just over 2 million people were without a job.

Vietnam's parliament officially forecasts economic growth this year of 6.5 percent, but economists widely view that number as unattainable, given falling exports, remittances and foreign direct investment.

Many, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, expect growth to be between 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent.

Ngan said about 6,000 Vietnamese Vietnamese working abroad had been sent home after being laid off by foreign employers. The government was still aiming to send some 90,000 workers overseas this year, up from 85,000 last year.

Vietnam sent nearly 18,000 workers abroad in the first two months of 2009, mainly to South Korea, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Japan.

By John Ruwitch & Nguyen Nhat Lam - Reuters - March 19, 2009