Trade unions may dispute the accuracy of the unemployment statistics; whatever the precise figure, the fact remains that the level of joblessness in Hong Kong is climbing, and is likely to go on doing so for months to come. It is decades since the employment outlook was so bleak. Even the celebrated adaptability and self-reliance of the workforce has taken a knock in the face of forces beyond the Government's control. There is not much prospect of any relief until the Asian situation as a whole stabilises. With Indonesia edging ever nearer the brink, that appears to be a somewhat distant prospect, and fresh worries about China's ability to maintain its growth are bound to cast a further shadow. The latest signals from the Government indicate that it is beginning to move on projects which will help to alleviate the problem in the long term. Plans by the Employees Retraining Board to spend $301 million on courses aimed at providing 73,000 places will begin within months. The Chief Secretary's announcement of 19,000 new jobs in the pipeline over the next 18 months is a reminder that the SAR's fundamentals remain sound. Projects for a new training scheme for the construction industry should, meanwhile, help to alleviate a long-standing shortfall in tradesmen. Even though the Government is no longer predicting that the economy will rebound by the end of 1998, it is still true that Hong Kong will come out of the economic tunnel well ahead of other areas in the region. The service sector may be caught in the downturn, but not so badly as elsewhere, and its relative health shows again how sound Government policy has been in the past decade. Unemployment in the import-export trade, finance, insurance, business services has stayed relatively low. There is always the hope that the publicity surrounding the opening of Chek Lap Kok airport will boost the tourist trade. But the restaurants and retail trades cannot expect to escape the force of the downturn when visitor numbers have dropped 25 per cent since the beginning of the year, and local people are feeling the pinch. Yet all is not gloom. Some positive indicators are apparent. Inflation is low, and the adjustment in the property sector, painful as it has been, has cooled down a vastly overheated market. When rents reach realistic levels and stay there, and wage levels cool, more companies will be able to weather the storm. It may take time, but Hong Kong's competitive edge is still there to be grasped once more.