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Unemployment and underemployment statistics for January - March 2012

     According to the latest labour force statistics released today (April 19) by the Census and Statistics Department, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stood at 3.4% (provisional figure) in January - March 2012, same as that in December 2011 - February 2012.  The underemployment rate increased from 1.5% in December 2011 - February 2012 to 1.6% (provisional figure) in January - March 2012.

     Comparing January - March 2012 with December 2011 - February 2012, increases in the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) were mainly observed in the construction and manufacturing sectors while decreases were more apparent in the import and export trade, and postal and courier activities sectors.  As for the underemployment rate, increases were mainly seen in the construction, and food and beverage service activities sectors.

     Total employment increased by around 1 000 from 3 648 600 in December 2011 - February 2012 to 3 649 600 (provisional figure) in January - March 2012.  Over the same period, the labour force also increased by around 6 000 from 3 767 700 to 3 773 700 (provisional figure).

     The number of unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) increased by around 5 000 from 119 100 in December 2011 - February 2012 to 124 100 (provisional figure) in January - March 2012.  Over the same period, the number of underemployed persons increased by around 2 100 from 56 500 to 58 600 (provisional figure).


     Commenting on the latest unemployment figures, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said, "As labour demand held broadly firm, total employment rose for the fifth consecutive month, up slightly by 1 000 to another record high of 3 649 600 in January - March 2012.  Nevertheless, since this was outpaced by a larger increase in the labour force, the number of unemployed persons edged up during the period.  On a seasonally adjusted basis, the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.4%."

     On the short-term outlook, Mr Cheung said, "While employers' hiring sentiment seems to have revived lately, the employment situation going forward continues to hinge crucially on the overall economic growth and the pace of job creation in the corporate sector.  In this regard, uncertainties in the external environment, in particular those over the lacklustre performance of major economies and the hovering Eurozone debt crisis, remain a cause of concern.  We will continue to monitor development closely."

      "Since the implementation of statutory minimum wage,  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 April 2012 so far.  

      "The Labour Department will keep up its efforts in providing comprehensive and free employment service to job-seekers.   Five large-scale job fairs (including two recruitment and training expos) were held in the first quarter of this year.  A total of 169 organisations conducted on-the-spot recruitment in the job fairs, offering over 13 600 vacancies.  Ten training bodies also received applications in the two expos.  We will continue to organise large-scale job fairs, canvassing vacancies from different industries to facilitate the job-seekers," Mr Cheung added.

     In March 2012, the number of private sector vacancies recorded by the Labour Department increased by 4.4% from 94 775 in February 2012 to 98 940, and up by 22.7% over 80 651 in the same period last year.

Further Information

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

     The survey for January - March 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 (

     The classification of occupation adopted by the Census and Statistics Department follows the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO), which is used to classify the occupation of an employed person or the previous occupation of an unemployed person.  After the implementation of the new ISCO, 2008 (ISCO-08), the General Household Survey has been enhanced to adopt the ISCO-08 in compiling labour force statistics by occupation, with statistics backcasted to the quarter of January to March 2011.  Starting from the reference quarter of January to March 2011, all the labour force statistics by occupation, unless otherwise specified, are compiled based on the ISCO-08.

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

Ends/Thursday, April 19, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:30


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