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Unemployment and underemployment statistics for March - May 2012

     According to the latest labour force statistics (provisional figures for March - May 2012) released today (June 18) by the Census and Statistics Department, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 3.3% in February - April 2012 to 3.2% in March - May 2012.  The underemployment rate also decreased from 1.5% in February - April 2012 to 1.4% in March - May 2012.

     Comparing March - May 2012 with February - April 2012, decreases in the unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) were mainly observed in the warehousing and support activities for transportation, foundation and superstructure, and retail sectors.  As for the underemployment rate, decreases were mainly seen in the construction and education sectors.

     Total employment increased by around 13 300 from 3 649 300 in February - April 2012 to 3 662 600 in March - May 2012.  Over the same period, the labour force also increased by around 11 800 from 3 774 100 to 3 785 900.

     The number of unemployed persons (not seasonally adjusted) decreased by around 1 300 from 124 700 in February - April 2012 to 123 400 in March - May 2012.  Over the same period, the number of underemployed persons also decreased by around 3 500 from 57 500 to 54 000.


     Commenting on the latest unemployment figures, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, said, "Total employment expanded visibly by around 13 300 to an all-time high of 3 662 600 in March - May 2012.  As employment growth outstripped the concurrent increase in labour supply, the number of unemployed persons fell back by around 1 300 to 123 400.  Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate edged down further from 3.3% to 3.2%."

     On the short-term outlook, Mr Cheung said, "The labour market held tight and remained in a state of full employment.  In the near term, the prevailing positive hiring sentiment among employers should help cushion in part the impact of the additional labour supply, driven by the entry of fresh graduates and school leavers of this double cohort year into the labour market.  However, the employment situation going forward remains challenging, in face of the increasing downside risks stemming from the worsening Eurozone debt crisis and the unsteady pace of economic recovery in the United States.  We will continue to be vigilant and closely monitor development."

     Mr Cheung added, "The Labour Department will keep up its efforts in providing comprehensive and free employment service to job-seekers.  In May 2012, the number of private sector vacancies recorded by the Labour Department increased by 28.8% from 90 420 in April 2012 to an all-time high of 116 425, and a surge by 76.6% over 65 943 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 March - May 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 January - March 2012 is now available and the next issue covering the quarter April - June 2012 will be available by end August 2012.  Users can download this publication free of charge at the website of the Census and Statistics Department (

     Enquiries for labour force statistics for March - May 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, June 18, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:31


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