Hong Kong's unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 per cent in the three months to the end of September, its lowest level since the coronavirus pandemic began, with the local economy gathering pace after the roll-out of the government's multibillion-dollar e-voucher scheme.
The rolling figure was down 0.2 percentage points over the period spanning June to August, the Census and Statistics Department revealed on Thursday, signalling a sustained economic recovery brought on by the easing of Covid-19 locally.
The latest jobless rate is the lowest since early 2020, when it reached 4.2 per cent in the January to March period, before it dropped to 7.2 per cent for the three months ending in February - the worst showing since 2004.
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According to the figures, about 180,600 people remained out of work, some 7,1000 fewer than in the preceding quarter, while the number of underemployed fell 8.3 per cent, to 79,000 residents.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said a marked improvement in unemployment was seen in the decoration, repair and maintenance for buildings sector, professional and business services, excluding cleaning and similar activities, and the arts, entertainment and recreation.
"The labour market improved further along with the increasingly entrenched economic recovery," he said. "The consumption voucher scheme should continue to render support to consumption-related activities in the near term."
The government handed out the first phrase of the HK$5,000 (US$645) consumption vouchers in August in an effort to boost sagging spending, a HK$36 billion (US$4.63 billion) scheme forecast to add at least 0.7 per cent to the gross domestic product this year.
In August, the government upgraded its forecast of Hong Kong's economic growth to between 5.5 per cent and 6.5 per cent for the year, after GDP registered robust growth of 7.6 per cent year on year in the second quarter.
For the first half of 2021, real GDP grew 7.8 per cent from the same period last year.