The labour minister has voiced cautious optimism for employment this year after Hong Kong's jobless rate last year fell more than 40 per cent from its peak during the Sars outbreak. But Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Stephen Ip Shu-kwan, said high oil prices and interest rates globally would still pose uncertainty to the local economy. The unemployment rate for the three months from September stood at 5.3 per cent and the under-employment rate was 2.4 per cent - both four-year lows. Mr Ip said unemployment in the construction sector remained relatively high. But he believed the situation would improve in coming years with the government rolling out projects for community facilities and building repairs, which would create about 6,000 jobs. 'If construction of the government headquarters and the Legislative Council complex at Tamar is to go ahead in 2007, this will create an extra 2,700 jobs in the construction sector,' he said. Mr Ip said the government would continue to monitor market demand for imported labour, particularly the impact that this would have on job opportunities for local people. About 2,000 vacancies will be on offer at a Labour Department recruitment forum at Sai Wan Ho Civic Centre on Thursday. The majority are being offered by 14 companies, mainly from the retail and catering industries. The retail sector positions include shop manager, customer service assistant, store assistant and supervisor. Those in the catering industry include restaurant manager, cook, waiter, cashier and cleaner. The jobs come with monthly pay of $5,000 to $10,000 for full-time positions. Another 402 vacancies offered by other companies will be posted at the forum venue.