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

Unemployment rate rose to 5.2%


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May 19, 2020 - According to the latest labor force statistics (i.e. provisional figures for February - April 2020) released today by the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 4.2% in January - March 2020 to 5.2% in February - April 2020. The underemployment rate also increased from 2.1% in January - March 2020 to 3.1% in February - April 2020.

Comparing February - April 2020 with January - March 2020, the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) increased across almost all the major economic sectors, with more distinct increases observed in the construction sector; retail, accommodation and food services sector; information and communications sector; professional and business services (excluding cleaning and similar activities) sector; education sector; and arts, entertainment and recreation sector. As to the underemployment rate, increases were mainly seen in the decoration, repair and maintenance for buildings sector; retail, accommodation and food services sector; transportation sector; and education sector.

Total employment decreased by around 62,600 from 3,720,000 in January - March 2020 to 3,657,400 in February - April 2020. Over the same period, the labor force also decreased by around 22,400 from 3,882,200 to 3,859,800.

The number of unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) increased by around 40,300 in February - April 2020 compared to January - March 2020, from 162,200 to 202,500. Over the same period, the number of underemployed persons also increased by around 35,800 from 82,800 to 118,600.

Commenting on the latest unemployment figures, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Dr Law Chi-kwong said, “The labor market showed further sharp deterioration as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to weigh on a wide range of economic activities. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate soared by 1.0 percentage point to 5.2% in February - April 2020, the highest in over a decade. The underemployment rate likewise surged by 1.0 percentage point to 3.1%, the highest in over 15 years. The year-on-year declines in total employment and labor force widened further to 5.4% and 3.0% respectively, both the largest on record.

“The unemployment rate of the consumption- and tourism-related sectors (viz. retail, accommodation and food services sectors) combined soared to 9.0%, the highest in more than 15 years, and the underemployment rate to 5.9%, the highest on record. In particular, the unemployment and underemployment rates in food and beverage service activities surged to 12.0% and 8.4% respectively. The situation in the construction sector was equally austere, with the unemployment rate and underemployment rate rising to 10.0% and 8.0% respectively. Labor market conditions in most other sectors also deteriorated, particularly in education, information and communications, professional and business services (excluding cleaning and similar activities), and arts, entertainment and recreation.”

Looking ahead, Dr Law said, “The labor market will continue to face immense pressure in the near term. To preserve the vitality of the economy, the Government has rolled out relief measures of unprecedented scale, including a series of measures on job retention and job creation. These measures should help keep workers in employment. The Government will closely monitor the situation.”

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