Hong Kong's jobless rate climbs to new high since 2004

HONG KONG, March 16 (Xinhua): Hong Kong's jobless rate climbed to the highest level since 2004 during the past three months due to the COVID-19 impact, official data showed Tuesday.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 7.2 percent during the December-February period, up from 7 percent registered for the previous comparable time ending January, according to a statement of the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government.

The underemployment rate increased from 3.8 percent to 4 percent in the same period, the statement showed.

The labor market remained under notable pressure, Secretary for Labor and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said, citing that the jobless rate of the retail sector rose from 8.9 percent to 9.1 percent.

The unemployment situation in multiple sectors also deteriorated, including import and export trade, postal and courier activities, education, and arts, entertainment and recreation.

However, he noted that the situation tended to stabilize in the latter part of the three-month period alongside the improvement in the epidemic situation.

The unemployment rate of the consumption- and tourism-related sectors combined went down to 11.1 percent from 11.3 percent, with that for food and beverage service activities down from 14.7 percent to 14.1 percent.

Looking ahead, Law believes despite challenges in the near term, the threat of the epidemic may gradually recede with the launch of the vaccination program, which will help ease the pressure on the labor market later in the year.

The government will continue to monitor the situation closely, he said. - Xinhua
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