The jobs gloom deepened yesterday as 400 employees at the Bank of China Group and 100 workers in a leading accounting firm were laid off. About 240 employees at the bank volunteered to leave. They will be compensated according to their years with the company and with their provident fund, the group said. Bank of China (HK) Ltd, which begins operating under its new identity on October 1 after the consolidation of its 13 sister banks, has 11,500 employees. Employees who have been enjoying low-interest mortgages will be able to keep the benefit for 18 months. Anyone living in staff quarters will have to move out in six months. The group's subsidiaries and partner firms, including Nanyang Commercial Bank, Chiyu Banking Corporation and its credit card centre, had promised to absorb some of the laid-off workers, a spokeswoman said. But the number of placements was not known yet. 'The 400-plus have to be made redundant because there were no suitable jobs found for them after the restructuring,' the spokeswoman said. Lawmaker Leung Fu-wah, who is also vice-chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions, said the union would try to help workers who wanted to be reinstated. 'If they seek help from us, we will try our best to get them back into their jobs at the bank. But we haven't received any formal appeal so far,' Mr Leung said. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, one of the largest accounting firms in Hong Kong with 1,600 staff, said it was releasing about 100 employees as a result of the economic downturn, which had led to lower than normal attrition rates. The sacked staff were all professionals - with positions at the level of accountant - a spokesman said. But the company denied it was downsizing and stressed that a continuing inflow and outflow of talent was normal. 'We continue to actively manage our organisation structure, including continuing to recruit the right people for the right levels,' the company said. Hong Kong's jobless rate rose to 4.9 per cent in the latest figures released on Monday, the highest level for a year.