Tomorrow's figures expected to be good news as firms show big rise in vacancies Job opportunities in Hong Kong are growing at an unprecedented rate and the government is cautiously optimistic about unemployment figures, the labour secretary says. With the latest unemployment rate due to be announced tomorrow, permanent secretary for economic development and labour Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said he expected the figure to fall from November's 6.7 per cent. In December, the number of job vacancies offered by private firms listed with the Labour Department was 24,600, 47 per cent higher than the previous year's figure. 'This trend is unprecedented but we ... have to remain cautiously optimistic because the economy is still restructuring and the problem of unemployment is still a challenge,' Mr Cheung said. Most of the job vacancies were in the catering, trading and retail sectors, he said. 'Our jobless rate will be relieved further. However, what we are facing now is the mismatch of labour supply and demand due to structural unemployment and economic restructuring,' he said. The unemployment rate in the construction industry stood at 15 per cent, with 80,000 to 100,000 workers out of jobs. Mr Cheung said the situation would improve when initiatives contained in last week's policy address were carried out to improve urban renewal. Construction Industry Employees General Union spokesman Choi Chun-wah said: 'There are very few public works projects. Building of public housing units has been halted and few private housing units have been built.' He hoped more job opportunities could be created for the industry during the economic recovery. Catering Industry Association president Thomas Woo Chu said the industry had already felt the strain of recruiting. 'I would say for every 10 vacancies, only six or seven have been filled,' Mr Woo said. Despite the government's optimism, University of Science and Technology economics professor Francis Lui Ting-ming said he was pessimistic about the unemployment rate in the coming year. Speaking at a forum staged by the Democratic Party on the policy speech, he said that although the economy would remain vibrant with an estimated growth rate of 6 per cent this year, an increase in low-skilled labour would push up unemployment figures. 'This is a very strange phenomenon. Even though our economy becomes better, the unemployment situation is worsening,' Professor Lui said. He warned that the figure would rise to 7.1 to 7.5 per cent by the end of the year, while the unemployment rate for professionals would remain low.