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Unemployment and underemployment statistics for October - December 2011

     According to the latest labour force statistics released today (January 19) by the Census and Statistics Department, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 3.4% in September - November 2011 to 3.3% (provisional figure) in October - December 2011.  The underemployment rate also fell from 1.5% in September - November 2011 to 1.4% (provisional figure) in October - December 2011.

     Comparing October - December 2011 with September - November 2011, decreases in the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) were mainly observed in the manufacturing, warehousing and support activities for transportation, and food and beverage service activities sectors.  As for the underemployment rate, decreases were mainly seen in the decoration, repair and maintenance for buildings, and retail sectors.

     Total employment increased by around 10 800 from 3 651 100 in September - November 2011 to 3 661 900 (provisional figure) in October - December 2011.  Over the same period, the labour force also increased by around 5 700 from 3 772 300 to 3 778 000 (provisional figure).

     The number of unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) decreased by around 5 100 from 121 200 in September - November 2011 to 116 100 (provisional figure) in October - December 2011.  Over the same period, the number of underemployed persons decreased by around 2 300 from 56 100 to 53 800 (provisional figure).


     The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged down by 0.1 percentage point from September - November 2011 to 3.3% in October - December 2011.  The underemployment rate also went down by 0.1 percentage point to 1.4%.

     Commenting on the latest unemployment figures, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said, "Thanks to the vibrant local consumption demand and strong inbound tourism, as well as a seasonal rise in labour demand towards the year-end, total employment surged by about 10 800 to an all-time high of 3 661 900 in October - December 2011.  The number of unemployed persons also fell notably to 116 100, the lowest level since early 2008.  On a seasonally adjusted basis, the unemployment rate fell slightly by 0.1 percentage point to 3.3%.

     "It is noteworthy that employment of younger persons continued to improve.  The unemployment rate for persons aged 15-24 went down further by 1.1 percentage points to 7.9%.  Within this particular group, the unemployment rate for persons aged 15-19 decreased by 2.7 percentage points to 11.4%, while the unemployment rate for those aged 20-24 dropped by 0.8 percentage point to 7.4%."

     Mr Cheung added, "The year 2011 saw an across-the-board and notable improvement in Hong Kong's labour market conditions.  Employment surged to a record high and unemployment rate remained at a low level throughout the year, signifying a virtually full employment situation of the overall economy with 130 500 jobs added in 2011 over 2010."

     Mr Cheung further pointed out that the annual unemployment rate declined visibly by 1 percentage point from 4.4% in 2010 to 3.4% in 2011.  For 2011 as a whole, the labour force and total employment enjoyed a phenomenal expansion of 2.6% and 3.7% respectively, both representing the strongest growth since 1996.

     "As a result of a tight labour market as well as the implementation of the statutory minimum wage in May 2011, we saw significant rise in a number of income indicators. The median monthly household income (excluding foreign domestic helpers) in September - November 2011 recorded a year-on-year surge of 11.1%, representing a 5.1% real growth as well as the most rapid growth since the first quarter of 1997.  The average monthly employment earnings for full-time employees (excluding government employees and live-in domestic workers) registered a year-on-year growth of 7.6% (or 1.8% in real terms) during the same period.  The lowest decile group registered a year-on-year growth of 13.0%, or 7.4% in real terms.

     "Last year, the Labour Department recorded 900 564 private sector vacancies, an all-time high figure and up by 19.7% over 2010.  Job placements amounted to 177 047, an increase of 18.3% over 2010.  The Labour Department will continue its efforts in providing comprehensive and free employment service to job-seekers," Mr Cheung added.

     On the short-term outlook, Mr Cheung said, "Increased business activities during the run-up to the Lunar New Year will boost labour demand further; and the unemployment rate is expected to remain at low levels in the near term.  However, our external environment remains highly uncertain and its impact on the local economy and labour market has yet to be seen.  We will continue to be vigilant and closely monitor the situation."

Further information

     The unemployment and underemployment statistics were compiled from the findings of the continuous General Household Survey.

     The survey for October - December 2011 covered a sample of some 24 000 households or 72 000 persons, selected in accordance with a scientifically designed sampling scheme to represent the population of Hong Kong.

     Data on labour force characteristics were obtained from the survey by interviewing each member aged 15 or over in the sampled households.  

     In the survey, the definitions used in measuring unemployment and underemployment follow closely those recommended by the International Labour Organisation.

     Detailed analysis of labour force characteristics is given in the "Quarterly Report on General Household Survey" which is published four times a year.  The current issue of the publication covering the quarter July - September 2011 is now available and the next issue covering the quarter October - December 2011 will be available in mid-March 2012.  Users can download this publication free of charge at the website of the Census and Statistics Department (

     Enquiries for labour force statistics for October - December 2011 can be directed to the General Household Survey Section (2), Census and Statistics Department (Tel.: 2887 5508; Fax: 2508 1501; e-mail:

Ends/Thursday, January 19, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:34


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