More than 28,000 people lost their jobs between January and March as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic pushed Hong Kong’s unemployment rate to its highest level in more than nine years.
The jobless rate of 4.2 percent is half a percentage point up from the 3.7 percent reported in the three months to February.
The Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Law Chi-kwong said: "The labour market showed a further sharp deterioration as the Covid-19 pandemic severely disrupted a wide range of economic activities.”
Consumption and tourism-related sectors were among the hardest hit – reporting a jobless rate of 6.8 percent – the highest level since October 2009, when the world was still reeling from the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
The catering industry was the worst hit, with the unemployment rate surging to 8.6 percent.
The construction sector was also struck a heavy blow, with the jobless figure bolting up to 8.5 percent amid a significant slowdown in construction activity.
A government statement said “the unemployment and underemployment situation also worsened visibly in the transportation and education sectors. The labour market conditions in most other sectors also saw deterioration of various degrees”.
Law warned that “the labour market will continue to face significant pressure from the economic fallout arising from the pandemic in the near term”.
However, he added that HK$287.5 billion worth of relief measures announced by the government in recent months “should help keep workers in employment.”
Meanwhile, the underemployment rate rose from 1.5 percent to 2.1 percent.
Total employment decreased by 3.6 percent on-year, while the labour force shrunk by 2.2 percent – both the largest contractions on record.