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Unemployment and underemployment statistics for December 2011 - February 2012

     According to the latest labour force statistics released today (March 19) by the Census and Statistics Department, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 3.2% in November 2011 - January 2012 to 3.4% (provisional figure) in December 2011 - February 2012.  The underemployment rate stood at 1.5% (provisional figure) in December 2011 - February 2012, same as that in November 2011 - January 2012.

     Comparing December 2011 - February 2012 with November 2011 - January 2012, increases in the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) were mainly observed in the decoration, repair and maintenance for buildings, warehousing and support activities for transportation, and retail sectors.  As for the underemployment rate, increases were mainly seen in the construction sector while decreases were more apparent in the transportation and retail sectors.

     Total employment increased by around 13 800 from 3 634 800 in November 2011 - January 2012 to 3 648 600 (provisional figure) in December 2011 - February 2012.  Over the same period, the labour force also increased by around 21 200 from 3 746 500 to 3 767 700 (provisional figure).

     The number of unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) increased by around 7 300 from 111 800 in November 2011 - January 2012 to 119 100 (provisional figure) in December 2011 - February 2012.  Over the same period, the number of underemployed persons increased by around 800 from 55 700 to 56 500 (provisional figure).


     Commenting on the latest unemployment figures, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said, "Total employment continued to grow visibly for the fourth consecutive month from 3 634 800 in November 2011 - January 2012 to another record high of 3 648 600 in December 2011 - February 2012.  However, as this was outpaced by an even greater increase in the labour force during the period, unemployment rose by about 7 300 to 119 100.  On a seasonally adjusted basis, the unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage point to 3.4%."

      "The appreciable increase in total labour force was primarily attributable to a significant increase of 18 100 in the labour supply of older age groups (aged 50 and above) over the period.  The visible increase in earnings in recent months, plausibly driven by the robust labour demand and the implementation of statutory minimum wage (SMW), could have attracted more persons at higher age groups to re-enter the labour market to seek jobs," he added.

     On the short-term outlook, Mr Cheung said, "Given the uncertain external environment as well as the less sanguine global economic outlook, local labour market conditions would likely be more challenging in the near term.  Moreover, the full effect of employers' customary annual review on staffing positions after the Lunar New Year has yet to be seen.  As such, the unemployment rate could face some upward pressure in the coming months.  We will continue to monitor the development closely."

      "Since the implementation of SMW, the number of private sector vacancies recorded by the Labour Department has stayed at a high level of over 3 000 per working day on average.  This level has been maintained in March 2012 so far.  

      "The Labour Department will keep up its efforts in providing comprehensive and free employment service to job-seekers.   We will continue to organise large-scale job fairs, canvassing vacancies from different industries for application by job-seekers on-the-spot and hence save their time in job searching.  Two large-scale job fairs offering more than 3 200 vacancies are being held today and tomorrow (March 19 and 20) in Tseung Kwan O.  A total of 50 employers from different industries, including the catering, retail, property management and security service sectors, will participate in the job fairs," Mr Cheung added.
Further Information

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

     The survey for December 2011 - February 2012 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 October - December 2011 is now available and the next issue covering the quarter January - March 2012 will be available by end May 2012.  Users can download this publication free of charge at the website of the Census and Statistics Department (

     Enquiries for labour force statistics for December 2011 - February 2012 can be directed to the General Household Survey Section (2), Census and Statistics Department (Tel.: 2887 5508; Fax: 2508 1501; e-mail:

Ends/Monday, March 19, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:30


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