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Unemployment and underemployment statistics for January - March 2016

     According to the latest labour force statistics (i.e. provisional figures for January - March 2016) released today (April 19) by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased from 3.3% in December 2015 - February 2016 to 3.4% in January - March 2016. The underemployment rate also increased from 1.3% in December 2015 - February 2016 to 1.4% in January - March 2016.
     Comparing January - March 2016 with December 2015 - February 2016, the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) saw an increase in most of the industry sectors. Increases were more visible in the construction sector and the retail sector. As to the underemployment rate, increases were mainly observed in the construction sector and the food and beverage service activities sector.

     Total employment decreased by around 4 600 from 3 816 400 in December 2015 - February 2016 to 3 811 800 in January - March 2016. Over the same period, the labour force increased by around 5 100 from 3 937 100 to 3 942 200.

     The number of unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) increased by around 9 700 from 120 700 in December 2015 - February 2016 to 130 400 in January - March 2016. Over the same period, the number of underemployed persons also increased by around 2 600 from 50 800 to 53 400.


     Commenting on the latest unemployment figures, a Government spokesman said, "After staying at 3.3% for eight consecutive periods, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went up slightly by 0.1 percentage point to 3.4% in January - March 2016, the highest level since late 2013. Total employment and labour force grew only slightly over a year earlier. The sustained weakness in inbound tourism and the slackened growth momentum of local consumption lately have increasingly apparent impact on the labour market. Indeed, employment of the consumption and tourism-related sectors, viz. retail, accommodation and food services as a whole, witnessed the 11th consecutive year-on-year decline in January - March 2016. Among them, the retail and accommodation services sectors were hit harder, with their unemployment rates up by 0.4 percentage point and 1.8 percentage points over a year earlier to 5.5% and 5.2% respectively, higher than the overall unemployment rate."

     On the short-term outlook, noting that the corporate hiring sentiment and employment outlook remain clouded by the uncertain economic prospects, and the lacklustre business performance of certain sectors such as retail, as well as the asset market consolidation, the spokesman said, "The potential repercussions of the above factors on the wider economy and labour market warrant particular attention. The Government will stay vigilant and monitor developments closely, especially the employment situation of grassroots workers."

     The Labour Department will organise large-scale job fairs from May 18 to 20 at the DĦEPark in Tsuen Wan with about 90 participating employers, including one dedicated job fair for the retail industry, which will provide a number of vacancies that are suitable for young people and fresh secondary school graduates. Local job centres will also continue to hold district-based job fairs to help job-seekers find employment. Employers from the catering, retail and construction industries will continue to conduct on-the-spot interviews with job-seekers at the Department's three industry-based Recruitment Centres.

     "The Government noted that the weakening external economy, as well as the depreciation of currencies of neighbouring destinations and their relaxation of visa requirements for Mainland visitors, etc, have substantially increased the tourism appeal of these destinations. In the light of these, on the one hand, the Government will continue to step up our promotion work in the overseas and Mainland markets, and promote the MICE (Meetings, Incentive Travels, Conventions and Exhibitions) and cruise tourism. On the other hand, the Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach to reduce the operating costs of the tourism trade, for example, by waiving the licence fees for travel agents and hotels for one year; and subsidising small and medium-sized travel agents, through the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, on a matching basis, to make use of information technology. We note that the number of visitors from Southeast Asia showed signs of pick-up recently. We will continue to closely monitor development," the spokesman added.

Further Information

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

     The survey for January - March 2016 covered a sample of some 25 000 households or 75 000 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 latest issue of the publication contains statistics for the quarter October - December 2015 while the next issue covering the quarter January - March 2016 will be available by end May 2016.  Users can download this publication free of charge at the website of the C&SD (

     For enquiries about labour force statistics, please contact the Social Analysis and Research Section (2) of the C&SD (Tel: 2887 5508 or email:

Ends/Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:31


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