The jobless rate has fallen to a four-year low of 5.5 per cent, with the number of people employed increasing to a high of 3.39 million. The government expects figures to be boosted further by an influx of more mainland tourists to Hong Kong, which it believes will create more jobs in the retail sector. Figures released by the Census and Statistics Department yesterday show that, after holding steady at 5.7 per cent for four consecutive months, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points for the three-month period of July to September, compared with the June-August figure. It is the lowest unemployment rate since October 2001. There are now 206,000 unemployed people, a drop of 9,700 from the previous period. The underemployment rate, which measures the number of people who cannot find more than 35 hours of work a week, also fell, to 2.6 per cent. Decreases in unemployment were seen mainly in the construction, sanitary, recreational and communications sectors, while the underemployment rate saw decreases in the amusement and recreational services and wholesale trade sectors. Meanwhile, the total labour force decreased by around 5,400, to about 3.6 million. A government spokesman attributed this partly to the return of summer workers to schools at the start of the academic year. He said the extension of the individual visitor's scheme to Chengdu , Jinan , Shenyang and Dalian from November 1 would boost tourism and benefit the retail and job markets. Tim Condon, ING's head of research for Asia, said he expected the rate to continue to drop. 'It is a good number and the trend has been pretty clear for some time. I think it is a durable decline,' he said. Chong Tai Leung, associate professor at City University's economics department, said the government's building plans would be unlikely to have a strong impact on the next round of jobless figures because they were unlikely to begin immediately. He added that the opening of Disneyland would have affected the latest figures.