Hong Kong’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 per cent in the three months to the end of September, a new low since the coronavirus pandemic began, with the local economy gathering pace after the roll-out of the government’s multibillion-dollar e-voucher scheme.
The rolling figure was down 0.2 percentage points over the period spanning June to August, the Census and Statistics Department revealed on Thursday, signalling a sustained economic recovery brought on by the easing of Covid-19 locally.
The latest jobless rate is the lowest since early 2020, when it reached 4.2 per cent in the January to March period. The 7.2 per cent figure for the three months ending in February this year was the worst showing since 2004.
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According to the figures, about 180,600 people remained out of work, some 7,1000 fewer than in the preceding quarter, while the number of underemployed fell 8.3 per cent, to 79,000 residents.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said there was a marked improvement in unemployment for the trades of decorating, repairing and maintaining buildings, professional and business services excluding cleaning and similar activities, and the arts, entertainment and recreation.
“The labour market improved further along with the increasingly entrenched economic recovery,” he said. “The [HK$5,000 consumption] voucher scheme should continue to render support to consumption-related activities in the near term.”
Joblessness in the retail and catering sectors fell slightly by 0.2 and 0.1 percentage points from the preceding three-month period to 7.2 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively, while it dropped by 1 percentage point to 5.9 per cent in accommodation services, and 0.6 percentage points for construction.
Law pointed out that for the three months ending in September, the Labour Department recorded a monthly average of 102,742 vacancies in the private sector, a year-on-year increase of 68.2 per cent.
Ryan Lam Chun-wang, head of research at Shanghai Commercial Bank, envisaged that the city’s jobless rate would remain at a similar level for a long period of time unless Hong Kong fully opened its borders, especially with mainland China.
“Don’t expect to see a marked improvement in the city’s unemployment in the near future,” he said. “The stimulating effect of local consumption has subsided. Hong Kong has to fully reopen its borders and resume international travel in order to boost tourism-related sectors such as hotels and retail sectors.”
The government handed out the first batch of its HK$5,000 (US$645) consumption vouchers in August to boost sagging spending, under a HK$36 billion scheme forecast to add at least 0.7 per cent to gross domestic product this year.
In August, authorities upgraded their forecast of Hong Kong’s economic growth to between 5.5 per cent and 6.5 per cent for the year, after GDP registered robust growth of 7.6 per cent year on year in the second quarter.
For the first half of 2021, real GDP – the figure adjusted for inflation – grew 7.8 per cent from the same period last year.
This article Hong Kong jobless rate drops to new low of 4.5 per cent since start of coronavirus pandemic first appeared on South China Morning Post