The number of people out of work is the highest for 15 years, it was revealed yesterday. Another 10,000 people lost their jobs last month, pushing the unemployment rate to 4.2 per cent between March and May, compared with 3.9 per cent for the previous three months. Officials admitted it could climb further, especially after the summer, when new graduates joined the labour force. Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing-ping said: 'I don't want to use exaggerated phrases like 'out of control', but it's true the unemployment rate is quite high. 'I would not rule out the possibility of having the pressure of a further climb in the future.' It was the highest figure since April-June 1983, when unemployment hit 4.4 per cent. But economists said recovery from the present slump would take longer than in 1983. The downturn triggered further gloom in the region's financial markets yesterday, with the Hang Seng Index losing 452.94 points, or 5.72 per cent, to close at 7,462.50. 'There's absolutely no reason to buy anything,' Indosuez WI Carr Securities head of equity research Simon Maughan said. 'Interest rates are going up and up.' Tung Chee-hwa said the situation was likely to get worse before picking up. Speaking in Sydney, he said: 'The adjustment process is very painful. 'We have announced a series of measures to cope with this situation in the short term. In the meantime, of course, things might get worse before they get better.' Unionists who met Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said yesterday another 20,000 people could find themselves out of work soon if the Government did not create jobs. The rise in unemployment mainly hit the retail, restaurants and transport sectors, while the increase in under-employment - up to 2.6 per cent from 2.2 per cent - was in construction, manufacturing and transport. Acting Government Economist Elley Mao said the market was adjusting to the region's volatile situation, which was hurting consumer spending and tourism. Mr Wong said the Government's 12-point package to create jobs would need time to take effect. He was confident that when the employment taskforce led by Mr Tsang met again on July 9, more measures could be worked out. Options such as advancing more infrastructural projects and creating social welfare jobs for babysitters and home helps would be considered. The vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Social Security Society, Professor Henry Mok Tai-kee, said: 'The real impact of the financial turmoil has not emerged yet. 'If the regional economy does not tumble again and the yen does not sink further, I believe it will still take another three months before the situation becomes clearer.' General Chamber of Commerce chief economist Ian Perkin said the downturn would take longer to pass than the 1983 slump, which was a result of the global trade drop and local political uncertainty. He said the current slump had hit the service sector and the regional turmoil had undermined consumer and investor confidence. Unionist legislator-elect Lee Cheuk-yan said the jobless level was soaring at an alarming rate, but the Government 'remains reluctant to take major steps to ease the problem by increasing public expenditure and suspending labour importation'. 'There is little room for officials to stimulate the economy,' he said. Political parties insisted that the Government should fully accept their six-point package to reduce rates and taxes. 'Now that the unemployment rate has shot up, public opinion is clearly on our side,' Democratic Party vice-chairman Dr Yeung Sum said. The seven parties will discuss the package today and see Mr Tsang again this week. Liberal Party vice-chairman Ronald Arculli said the package would help improve the economy and employment. 'By cutting taxes and lowering fares, people have more money to spend and invest,' he said.