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Official data released on Tuesday shows unemployment in Hong Kong between March and May 2020 is 5.9%, up from 5.2% compared to the previous period (February to April 2020). This has surpassed the peak of 5.5% in the aftermath of the global financial crisis more than 15 years ago. 

Comparing March – May with February – April, the unemployment rate increased across almost all the major economic sectors, with sharper increases observed in the construction sector, retail, accommodation and food services sector, transportation sector, information and communications sector, education sector, the arts, and the entertainment and recreation sector.

"The unemployment rate of the consumption- and tourism-related sectors combined increased to 10.6% in March – May 2020, the highest since August – October 2003 after the onslaught of SARS, and the underemployment rate rose visibly to 6.3%, the highest on record," Law Chi-Kwong, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, said. 

"Among these sectors, the unemployment rate for food and beverage service activities rose to 14.8% while the underemployment rate stayed elevated at 8.2%. Meanwhile, the situation in the construction sector worsened, with the unemployment rate rising to 10.8% and the underemployment rate to 8.2%. The labour market conditions in many other sectors also weakened."

The underemployment rate also increased from 3.1% in February to April 2020 to 3.5% in March to May 2020.

The number of unemployed surged by around 279,00 from 202,500 in February to April 2020 to 230,400 in March to May 2020. Over the same period, the number of underemployed persons also increased by around 16,500 from 118,600 to 135,100.

Looking ahead, Law said, "While the local epidemic situation has abated, it will take time for local economic activities to return to normal. The external environment also remains difficult as the pandemic continues to weigh on the global economy. The labour market will still face pressure in the near term, yet the pace of deterioration may decelerate.

"To preserve the vitality of the economy, the government has rolled out relief measures of unprecedented scale, including a series of measures on job retention and job creation. These measures should help keep workers in employment. The government will monitor the situation closely," Law added.