PARDON ME IF you think that you are rereading what you saw here exactly a month ago. You are but it is not my fault. If Labour Secretary Stephen Ip Shu-kwan insists every month on coming out with the same twaddle about unemployment, I think I may be excused for pointing out again where he has it wrong. Take, for instance, his assertion that 'the unemployment rate will not decrease [sic] in the third quarter because [sic] a new batch of graduates is coming out'. Mr Ip seems to forget his statisticians calculate the unemployment rate on a seasonally adjusted basis, using a fancy Canadian technique called X-11-ARIMA. This is what the 8.6 per cent unemployment rate he announced represents. The straight unadjusted figures show 8.5 per cent. Seasonally adjusted, sir, means exactly what it says. If this is the season that graduates all enter the workforce (the statistical evidence actually says they do not) then seasonal adjustment eliminates this effect from the figures at this time every year and you will not see any increase that can be attributed to those graduates. You are seeing ever less of it in any case. As the first chart shows, the number of people in our population aged 20 to 29, the age bracket for post-secondary graduates, has declined steadily over the years as a percentage of the labour force. The figures also say the greatest single reason the labour force continues to grow much more rapidly than our overall population is not that graduates are not looking for jobs but that their mothers are doing so. The fastest-rising component of the labour force is married women aged over 40. Please, Mr Ip, could you look at those figures just once before pronouncing on them. You would do us all a favour. But let us look at them some more. They say that last month 6,500 people entered the workforce on a three-month average basis, there were 6,200 fewer jobs and there were, therefore, 12,700 more people unemployed. I do not belittle the hardship these 12,700 people now face but, equally, I think we need to take several things into account. In the first place, the biggest single cause of rising unemployment was once again the growth of the labour force rather than loss of jobs. We really do need to consider whether we have the doors at our borders too wide open to labour migrants from outside, particularly from the mainland. Secondly, those 6,200 jobs lost represent only 0.19 per cent of the number of jobs that still remain and, thirdly, this happened in the aftermath of the biggest shock impact our economy has endured in six years. If you were told at the height of the Sars outbreak the job loss resulting from it last month would be less than two-tenths of 1 per cent, would you have believed it? These figures say our economy has proved resilient to developments that could have pushed the number of lost jobs much higher. This may be cold comfort to the people who have lost their jobs, but it may provide them some comfort in hoping they will get their jobs back again as things improve. The second chart gives you an indication of how this may come about. The blue line represents real year-on-year economic growth since 1983 and the red line represents employment growth with the twist here that I have multiplied the employment growth figures by three to fit them on the same vertical axis. It does not change the story. The up and down movements of that red line remain the same. The chart says economic and employment growth are closely related, as you might expect, right up to this year, when economic growth trended down slightly in the first quarter and employment growth did, too. Notice that on a year-on-year basis we still had growth in employment. There are more jobs in Hong Kong now than there were a year ago despite Sars. I cannot guarantee you economic growth will rise from this point but I think it is a reasonable bet, given the continued industrial boom in China and the economic adjustments we have made. If so, those jobs will come back.