Unemployment has stayed at 6.1 per cent, with many graduates being absorbed into the labour market, Government Economist Tang Kwong-yiu said yesterday. The provisional seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July-September was the same as for the June-August period. Mr Tang said rises and falls in different sectors had led to the unchanged rate. The rises were in decoration and maintenance, transport, wholesale trade and hotel sectors, offsetting decreases in communications and business services. The underemployment rate rose to 3.1 per cent, compared with 2.9 per cent in the June-August period, meaning more people were unable to work as many hours as they wanted, he said. This happened mainly in the construction sector, where rainy weather hampered work. The July-September period saw 224,000 jobless people out of a labour force of 3,459,000. The number of underemployed increased by 7,000. Mr Tang said there were signs the pressure from first-time job-seekers had eased. 'During the past few months there were continuous entrances of fresh graduates and school leavers into the labour market but at the same time the jobs created . . . have been adequate to absorb at least some of them,' he said. About 29,000 students are still seeking jobs out of the total of 68,000 graduates. Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing-ping said the number of vacancies registered with the Labour Department and the number of people successfully placed in jobs in September were 14,000 and 4,200 respectively. Both figures were the highest recorded in the past 14 months. The highest unemployment rate recorded was 6.3 per cent in the March-May period. It dropped to six per cent in July but bounced back up to 6.1 per cent in August. The vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Union, Leung Fu-wah, said that the 'still high' jobless rate was to be expected as the economy had yet to recover further. 'There's always a time lag between recovery and unemployment,' he said. 'We expect the rate to start falling below six per cent by the end of this year.'