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Hong Kong unemployment rate rises with retail and hotel sectors hardest hit



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For the first time in two years the Hong Kong’s unemployment rate has gone up, increasing by 0.1 percentage points to 2.9%.

The increase has been principally driven by a weaker performance in the retail and hotel sectors – which have been hit hard by the extradition bill protests in recent months and the ongoing US-China trade war. The number of unemployed individuals rose by 4200 to 118,500 in the May-July quarter.

“As the consumption market stayed soft, the unemployment rate of the retail, accommodation and food services sectors, taken together, went up from the preceding three-month period. Also, the import and export trade sector has been facing increasing pressure amid shrinking trade flows, with the unemployment rate generally on the rise since early this year,” said Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare.

“As the economy is expected to stay weak in the coming months, the local labour market will unavoidably be subject to greater pressure,” Law added.

According to Dickie Wong, executive director of research at Kingston Securities, the unemployment rate could continue to increase in the second half of 2019.

The trade war is the biggest factor as Hong Kong is a re-export hub. Plus, the impact of the local protests – which are up to their 11th week – is not fully reflected in second-quarter data, Wong was reported as saying in The Standard.

Wong expects recruitment sentiment in the job market to soften, estimating that some organisations would freeze their headcount, making it more difficult for jobseekers to secure a new job.

He added that the financial sector is less affected, but there is likely to be an ongoing affect on the retail industry – particularly the hotel sector – as more countries issue travel warnings for Hong Kong. 

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