Listings have risen, but the figures show the middle-aged face fewer choices The labour market is improving, but the problem of the middle-aged unemployed continues to weigh heavily on jobless figures, according to data released yesterday. Permanent secretary for economic development and labour Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said the number of job vacancies listed with the Labour Department in November increased 55 per cent compared with the same period last year. He said there were 29,260 posts offered by private companies last month, the second-highest number ever. 'It shows that Hong Kong's economy is improving. And our labour market is still very active,' said Mr Cheung. He said increased numbers of individual travellers from the mainland had encouraged people to spend more, bringing a sharp increase in the number of job opportunities in catering, retailing and hotel businesses. Despite the encouraging figures, Hong Kong's jobless rate remains historically high at 6.7 per cent. When asked how to solve the problem, Mr Cheung said that almost half of Hong Kong's unemployed were aged 44 or older. He said the department would stress the training of the middle-aged unemployed. Mr Cheung predicted there would be about 2,400 vacancies created in property management over the next year, and a recruitment forum was held yesterday. Mr Cheung added that property management was a field well-suited to the middle-aged. Ellen Ho, who recently became a property manager, was fired from her job as a secretary in 1999 and began studying for a certificate of property management shortly afterwards. That qualification enabled her to get work as a security guard in 2000. Although the work was tough - working 12 hours a day and earning $3,000 less than her job as a secretary - it had been satisfying and had resulted in her promotion to her current position. 'As long as there are buildings, there will be property management. And this is not a job especially for men. Women are also capable of it,' Ms Ho said. About 2,100 people interested in following Ms Ho's example attended the Property Management Industry recruitment forum hosted by the Labour Department yesterday, in which 14 companies offered 1,000 vacancies. About 70 people were queuing outside the gallery in Sha Tin Town Hall before the forum began at 10.30am. The 49-year-old woman who was first in line said she worked as a cleaner and her hourly salary was $20. She worked nine hours a day and wanted a chance at a different career. A property officer for one of the recruiters said the quality of the applicants had been high and he welcomed the interest of the middle-aged.