Hong Kong's unemployment rate will rise to 6.5 per cent next summer, with its economic woes unlikely to end in the near future, according to a top economist. 'I cannot see the economic downturn being finished by the end of this year,' said Francis Lui Ting-ming, director of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's centre for economic development. 'There will be more people losing their jobs in the coming months.' The unemployment rate hit a record 5.3 per cent in October, with the number of jobless rising by 8,600 to 188,000. The previous high of 5.2 per cent was seen in early 1983. Although the unemployment rate is increasing, Mr Lui supports the Government in its decision to import workers to Hong Kong. 'We have studies showing that the unemployment rate is independent from the imported labour force,' he said. 'Imported labour brings competition to the local market and helps to cut operation costs in Hong Kong. 'Imported labour also helps to create new job opportunities. 'The cheaper costs encourage businessmen to start up new businesses or other projects, which create job opportunities for other Hong Kong employees.' Mr Lui said he expected gross domestic product growth for the year would contract 5 per cent, which is in line with the Government's latest revision of its economic forecast announced last week. The Government's revision came after the economy saw GDP register a record minus 7 per cent growth in the three months from July to September.