Jobless dip but rebound looks likely

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong's job market continues to improve, with the unemployment rate edging down 0.1 per cent in November to sit at just 4.4 per cent.

But academics and unionists believe the rate will rebound after the Lunar New Year in February as it is the traditional season for restaurants to close down.

The latest jobless rate, released by the Census and Statistics Department yesterday, is the lowest since early 2001, but the decline of 0.1 per cent was absorbed partially by the underemployment rate which saw an increase of 0.1 per cent to 2.5 per cent last month.

James Sung Lap-kung, public governance analyst and City University academic co-ordinator, said it was reasonable to say some of the jobless had rejoined the workforce, with a surge in part-time jobs over the festive season.

Officials said the drops in the jobless rate were due mainly to more jobs in the retail, manufacturing and restaurant sectors while increases in the underemployment rate were found in the manufacturing, education services, decoration and maintenance sectors.

Construction Industry Employees General Union chairman Choi Chun-wah said there would be more casual work in interior decorating to refurbish homes before the Lunar New Year.

'But normally after the New Year the market will be slack again, and many may become jobless again,' Mr Choi said.

Total jobs last month grew by 12,900 to a record 3.51 million, but Dr Sung said a return to the 1998 jobless level of 2.2 per cent was unlikely because manufacturing jobs had gone to the mainland.