Unemployment hits 17-year high of 7pc

Finance | Winnie Lee 19 Feb 2021

Hong Kong's unemployment rate hit a 17-year high of 7 percent during the three months from November to January, due to the fourth wave of local epidemic.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased more than expected, rising from 6.6 percent during October to December 2020 to 7 percent during November 2020 to January 2021, data from the Census and Statistics Department showed.

The underemployment rate also increased from 3.4 percent to 3.8 percent in the November-January period.

Total employment in the November-January period fell by around 17,100 to 3.63 million, or 0.5 percent, from the previous October-December period. Over the latter period, the labor force also decreased by around 9,400 to 3.88 million.

The number of unemployed persons, not seasonally adjusted, rose by around 7,500, or 3.1 percent, to 253,300 in the November-January period. The number of underemployed persons was also up around 14,400 to 148,200.

The unemployment rate of the consumption- and tourism-related sectors including retail, accommodation and food services sectors increased by 0.7 percentage points over the preceding three-month period to 11.3 percent in the November-January period, and the underemployment rate rose by 0.9 percent to a record high of 6.6 percent.

Among these sectors, the unemployment rate for food and beverage service activities increased to 14.7 percent and the underemployment rate soared to 10 percent. Labor market conditions in most other sectors also deteriorated, particularly in education and arts, entertainment and recreation.

The Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said although the local epidemic has shown signs of easing lately, the labor market will remain under pressure in the near term as it will take time for economic activity to return back to normal.

Kevin Lau Kin-hang, Standard Chartered's senior economist for Greater China, estimated the jobless rate will maintain a high level in the next few months and even rise.

The situation might improve in the second half of the year, he said.

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