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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
Hong Kong unemployment soars
Woman checks employment bureau window
Hong Kong's jobless total is rising
Unemployment in Hong Kong has surged to its highest level for at least 20 years, official figures have revealed.

The unemployment rate hit 7.0% in the January-to-March period, up from 6.8% during the three months to February, Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department said.

The latest figure, which exceeded analysts' forecasts of 6.9%, is the highest since the current system of measuring joblessness was introduced in 1981.

And analysts warned the figure could rise further as Hong Kong struggles to combat the threat of a lengthy recession.

"Psychologically, people will not like the 7.0% figure but I am afraid it can edge up further," ABN Amro economist Eddie Wong said

The level of unemployment in Hong Kong has more than trebled since 1997, when the rate was 2.2%.

During the so-called Asian crisis, the rate peaked at 6.4% in spring 1999.

No growth

The Hong Kong economy is in dire straits.

Jobs have gone from firms in a range of sectors, including real estate, recreational services and retail, as well as import-export, business services and construction.

The rate of economic growth slipped from 10.5% in 2000 to just 0.1% last year, official figures show.

According to the latest available data, the Hong Kong economy began to shrink last summer.

The rate of economic shrinkage accelerated from 0.4% during the July-to-September period to 1.6% during the last three months of last year.

Economists define a recession as negative growth during two three month periods in a row.

Statistics for the first three months of 2002 are not expected to have recorded a recovery.

See also:

21 Feb 02 | Business
Hong Kong joblessness soars
17 Jan 02 | Business
Hong Kong entrepreneurs struggle on
17 Jan 02 | Business
Hong Kong unemployment surges
08 Jan 02 | Business
Hong Kong shoppers take fright
05 Dec 01 | Business
PCCW adds to HK job cuts
23 Nov 01 | Business
Hong Kong prices keep falling
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