Unemployment rises to 3.7%

March 17, 2020

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 3.7% in the period between December 2019 and February 2020, up from 3.4% in the November 2019-January 2020 period, the Census & Statistics Department announced today.


The underemployment rate also increased to 1.5% in December 2019-February 2020.


Total employment dropped by 34,400 to 3,768,800 while the labour force fell by 22,500 to 3,903,000. 


There were 134,100 unemployed people, an increase of 11,800 from the November 2019-January 2020 period, and the number of underemployed also rose by 11,800 to 59,100.


Secretary for Labour & Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong said the labour market deteriorated sharply, as the COVID-19 epidemic caused severe disruptions to a wide range of economic activities and dampened economic sentiment.


The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.7% is the highest in more than nine years, while the underemployment rate of 1.5% also increased to a five-year high.


The year-on-year decline in total employment widened to 2.5%, the largest since the Asian financial crisis. The decline in the labour force also enlarged in parallel, suggesting that some people chose to leave the labour force upon losing their jobs.


"The employment situation of the consumption and tourism-related sectors of retail, accommodation and food services sectors exacerbated further, as the threat of the COVID-19 infection has 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% and 2.5% respectively, both the highest in about a decade. The situation in food and beverage service activities was particularly severe, with the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate soaring to 7.5% and 3.5% respectively,” Dr Law said.


The unemployment and underemployment situation in the construction sector deteriorated drastically, as construction activities saw a visible slowdown. The transportation sector's underemployment rate also rose noticeably amid sharply reduced people and cargo flows, he added.


"The labour 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. The Government will monitor the developments closely." 

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