Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, USA
Hong Kong
News Release

Unemployment rate rises to 3.4%


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February 18, 2020 - According to the latest labor force statistics (i.e. provisional figures for November 2019 - January 2020) released today by the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 3.3% in October - December 2019 to 3.4% in November 2019 - January 2020. The underemployment rate remained unchanged at 1.2% in the two periods.

Comparing November 2019 - January 2020 with October - December 2019, movements in the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) in different industry sectors varied. A relatively notable increase was observed in the import/export trade and wholesale sector. Movements in the underemployment rates in different industry sectors also varied, but were generally small in magnitude.

Total employment decreased by around 14 600 from 3 817 800 in October - December 2019 to 3 803 200 in November 2019 - January 2020. Over the same period, the labor force also decreased by around 16 300 from 3 941 800 to 3 925 500.

The number of unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) decreased by 1 700 from 124 000 in October - December 2019 to 122 300 in November 2019 - January 2020. The number of underemployed persons in November 2019 - January 2020 was 47 300, about the same as that in October - December 2019 (47 400).

Commenting on the latest unemployment figures, Hong Kong Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr. Law Chi-kwong said, "The labor market slackened further as economic conditions stayed weak. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by another 0.1 percentage point to 3.4% in November 2019 - January 2020, the highest in more than three years. Meanwhile, the underemployment rate remained unchanged at 1.2%. The year-on-year decline in total employment widened noticeably further to 1.8%, the largest since the third quarter of 2003. The sharp fall in employment combined with a modest increase in unemployment rate suggested that some people may have chosen to leave the labor force when losing their jobs."

"The employment situation of the consumption- and tourism-related sectors (viz. retail, accommodation and food services sectors) remained difficult. The unemployment rate of these sectors combined stayed at 5.2%, the highest in more than three years, and employment continued to fall sharply on a year-on-year basis. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate of the construction sector increased further to 5.7%, the highest level in close to six years, and that of the import/export trade and wholesale sector deteriorated visibly."

Looking ahead, Dr. Law said, "The labor market will be subject to even more pressure in the near term, as the threat of the novel coronavirus infection has already caused severe disruptions to a wide range of economic activities lately, particularly the consumption- and tourism-related sectors. The Government will monitor the developments closely."

"In view of the recent development of epidemic situation, the Chief Executive has announced on February 14 a range of measures to assist the affected sectors in order to minimize any negative impact on the labor market due to company closure, as well as to provide assistance for low-income families," Dr. Law added.

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