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Unemployment rises to 7%

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by 0.4 percentage points to 7%, the highest in close to 17 years, for the period between November and January compared to the period from October to December, the Census & Statistics Department announced today.   The underemployment rate also increased by 0.4 percentage points to 3.8% during the period.   Total employment decreased by 17,100 to 3,630,600 while the labour force fell by 9,400 to 3,884,000.   There were 253,300 unemployed people from November to January, an increase of 7,500 from the preceding three-month period. The number of underemployed people also increased by 14,400 to 148,200.   Secretary for Labour & Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong pointed out that the labour market was under notable pressure during the period due to the fourth wave of the local epidemic.   Analysed by sector, the unemployment rate of the consumption and tourism-related sectors, including retail, accommodation and food services sectors, increased by 0.7 percentage points to 11.3% and the underemployment rate rose by 0.9 percentage points to a record high of 6.6%.   Among these sectors, the unemployment rate and underemployment rate for food and beverage service activities increased visibly to 14.7% and 10%.   Dr Law noted that labour market conditions in most other sectors also deteriorated, particularly in education and arts, entertainment and recreation.   Looking ahead, he said: "Although the fourth wave of the local epidemic has shown signs of easing lately, the labour market will remain under pressure in the near term as it will take time for economic activities to return to normal.   "Keeping the epidemic under control the soonest possible with the concerted efforts of the whole community is of pivotal importance to economic recovery and improvement of the labour market."   The Government will continue to monitor the situation closely, he added.
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