CHINA Hong Kong's unemployment rate rises to 3.7 pct, highest in over 9 years

CHINA

Hong Kong's unemployment rate rises to 3.7 pct, highest in over 9 years

Xinhua

08:31, March 18, 2020

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File photo: CGTN

HONG KONG, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong's unemployment rate increased to 3.7 percent, the highest level in more than nine years, in the period between December 2019 and February 2020, with that of consumption- and tourism-related sectors reaching a 10-year high of 6.1 percent, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said on Tuesday.

According to the latest labor force statistics released by the HKSAR government's Census and Statistics Department, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in December 2019-February 2020 rose by 0.3 percentage point compared to the November 2019-January 2020 period, with the underemployment rate reaching a five-year high of 1.5 percent.

In the December 2019-February 2020 period, total employment dropped by around 34,400 to 3,768,800, and the labor force decreased by around 22,500 to 3,903,000, comparing to the November 2019-January 2020 period.

The HKSAR government's Secretary for Labor and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said the labor market deteriorated sharply as the COVID-19 epidemic caused severe disruptions to a wide range of economic activities and dampened economic sentiment.

Law pointed out that the employment situation of consumption- and tourism-related sectors exacerbated further, as the threat of the COVID-19 infection had brought inbound tourism to a standstill and dealt a severe blow to consumption-related activities.

The unemployment rate and the underemployment rate of these sectors combined surged to 6.1 percent and 2.5 percent respectively, both the highest in about a decade, he said.

Meanwhile, unemployment and underemployment in the construction sector also deteriorated drastically, as construction activities saw visible slowdown, said Law.

Law noted that the labor market will be subject to even greater pressure in the near term, and the exact impact will hinge on the duration and severity of the pandemic around the world.

Hong Kong is now suffering from COVID-19 epidemic and global economic turmoil, after months-long local social unrest, said Ronald Wan, a seasoned investment banker in Hong Kong.

"Some Hong Kong companies have to cut jobs as these mixed events have brought heavy pressure for them," Wan said.

To tackle tough economic situations, the HKSAR government has launched a basket of policies to support the economy and employment.

HKSAR government Financial Secretary Paul Chan unveiled a basket of relief measures in total of 120 billion Hong Kong dollars (15.4 billion U.S. dollars) to relieve burden on Hong Kong enterprises and residents in his annual budget last month.

For tourism- and consumption-related sectors, the HKSAR government has launched a support scheme under the Anti-epidemic Fund to support eligible travel agencies with 80,000 Hong Kong dollars (10,294 U.S. dollars) each, and would unveil support scheme for retailers in late March, expected to reach around 70,000 retailers hit by the pandemic.

As for the construction sector, the HKSAR government had allocated funding to start more than 1,000 small-scale engineering projects, to benefit about 17,000 workers and technical professionals. Enditem

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