HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Unemployment rate soars to highest in 16 years

Outlook remains bleak for the labour market as the global pandemic rages on.

The number of jobless people across Hong Kong’s major economic sectors rose to its highest in 16 years during the third quarter, as a third wave of pandemic infections spread across the city.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 6.4% during the July-September period from 6.1% in June-August, according to the latest labour force statistics released by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD).

The total employment rate decreased by around 15,600 to 3.62 million in Q3, from 3.64 million employed people in June-August. Over the same period, the labour force contracted by around 4,200 to more than 3.88 million from approximately 3.89 million previously.

"The labour market deteriorated for the third quarter of 2020 as a whole amidst the third wave of the local epidemic, particularly in July and August, but the pressure faced by the labour market showed signs of stabilisation towards the end of the quarter as the local epidemic situation abated in September,” said Dr. Law Chi-kwong, secretary for labour and welfare, regarding the latest labour statistics.

Analysed by sector, the unemployment rate of the consumption- and tourism-related sectors such as retail, accommodation and food services sectors combined surged by 0.8 percentage points (ppt) from June - August to 11.7% in July - September 2020—the highest since the onslaught of SARS, Law further notes.

Notably, the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate for food and beverage service activities soared to 15.2% and 9.5%, respectively. The unemployment rate and the underemployment rate of the construction sector also remained elevated at 10.9% and 8.3%.

The unemployment situation in many other sectors deteriorated, particularly in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector, Law added.

Over the same period, the overall percentage of underemployed persons remained unchanged, at 3.8%.

Comparing July-September from June-August, the unemployment rate increased across almost all the major economic sectors, with more distinct increases observed in the retail, accommodation and food services sector; and arts, entertainment and recreation sector.

Meanwhile, for the underemployment rate, decreases were mainly seen in the transportation sector and education sector, whilst increases were observed in the food and beverage service activities sector; and arts, entertainment and recreation sector.

Looking ahead, Law said that the labour market will remain under pressure in the near term with the overall economic situation remaining weak and the global pandemic still evolving.

He noted that the Labour Department will organise the Wan Chai Job Fair on 28 and 29 October at the Southorn Stadium, and over 40 employers will participate.

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