Vacancies drop by one-fifth in a month as workers warned of worse to come Hong Kong's unemployment last month rose to 3.8 per cent, the highest level since October last year, and the number of jobs available dropped more than one-fifth as the government warned of further economic strife. November's jobless rate rose 0.3 percentage points from 3.5 per cent in October. This means about 4,600 more jobs were shed in a month, up from 131,800 to 136,400. Rising unemployment was recorded in the retail, construction, manufacturing, communications, and import and export trade sectors. Economists generally expect unemployment to worsen to about 5 or 6 per cent next year given the gloomy outlook. 'The financial tsunami has caused significant impact on economies around the globe and, as an open economy, Hong Kong will also be affected,' Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said. 'It is vitally important that we should work closely together to weather the storm and reduce as far as possible the negative impact on employment.' Speaking at a job market seminar, Mr Cheung warned of continued upward pressure on the unemployment rate, especially after May or June, as fresh graduates sought work. A government spokesman said the slowdown in domestic business and external trade was hurting the labour market, and that the unemployment rate was likely to continue rising in the coming months. Total employment dropped by 13,500 from 3,546,600 in October to 3,533,100 last month, Census and Statistics Department figures show. The size of the workforce has shrunk by 8,900, from 3,678,400 to 3,669,500. The underemployment rate worsened slightly from 1.7 per cent to 1.8 per cent and mainly affected the construction and sanitary-services sectors. Underemployment measures the number of people who cannot find more than 35 hours of work a week. The figures were released as more and more companies shed jobs to control overheads. The Labour Department said the number of private-sector vacancies registered last month fell by about 13,000, from 58,000 in October to about 45,000, a reduction of 22.4 per cent. To curb rising unemployment, the chief executive has announced that the government will create more than 60,000 jobs through speeding up infrastructure projects and civil service recruitment. But lawmakers at yesterday's Legislative Council manpower panel meeting criticised the plan for mainly focusing on construction-related positions and said more varied jobs should be offered. 'Many of these jobs are related to infrastructure projects. But we have been hit by a financial tsunami,' legislator Ip Kwok-him said. 'Although construction workers are affected by the crisis, those who are from the finance and property sectors have also been seriously affected.' Mr Cheung, who also attended the meeting, reiterated that other measures to provide more employment opportunities would be unveiled later, including when the financial secretary announced the budget in February. In its latest economic analysis, the Bank of East Asia warned that the unemployment rate could climb to as high as 6 per cent next year.