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HK Unemployment Rate Decreases to 52-month Low
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The unemployment rate in Hong Kong decreased from 5.3 percent in October-December 2005 to 5.2 percent in November 2005 -- January 2006 period, the lowest in 52 months, according to official statistics.


According to the latest labor force statistics released on Friday by Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, the underemployment rate also declined, from 2.5 percent to 2.4 percent (provisional figure) over the same period.


However, total employment decreased by around 4,500 and the total labor force decreased by around 12,400 during the same period.


A spokesman of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government noted that total employment showed some decline in November 2005 -- January 2006, which was partly related to the reduced business activity and labor demand in some sectors such as manufacturing, business services and some other services possibly during the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays.


He said but this was more than offset by a larger decrease in the labor supply, the number of unemployed persons fell further to below 180,000 for the first time since June--August 2001. Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate also edged down to a 52-month low of 5.2 percent.


"We will monitor the situation closely," the spokesman added.


The spokesman said the consumer sentiment was still fairly strong during the festive season. In December 2005, the value of total retail sales, estimated at 19.3 billion HK dollars (US$2.49 billion), increased by 6.9 percent over the same month in 2004.


"Strong internal consumption was matched by a continued increase in inbound tourism. Tourist arrivals reached 810,000 during the Lunar New Year Golden Week. For 2005 as a whole, Hong Kong received over 23 million tourists -- a historic high. The continuous robust performance of the tourism industry has a positive effect on employment," the spokesman said.


Comparing November 2005 -- January 2006 with October-December 2005, decreases in the unemployment rate were mainly seen in the restaurants, manufacturing, welfare and community services, and communications sectors.


As to the underemployment rate, decreases were mainly seen in the decoration and maintenance, welfare and community services, and manufacturing sectors.


The spokesman said to help young people plan their career path, the Labor Department and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council will stage the Education and Careers Expo 2006 on Feb. 23-26 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center. The Expo seeks to provide comprehensive information on careers, education and training opportunities, the spokesman added.


(Xinhua News Agency February 18, 2006)


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