RTTNews - The Hong Kong unemployment rate remained unchanged near its four-year high in the three months ending July from the previous three-month period ending June, the Census and Statistics Department said Tuesday.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate stood at 5.4% in the May to July period, unchanged from the April to June period. Economists had expected the rate to edge up to 5.5%.

The number of unemployed persons, on a not seasonally adjusted basis, totaled 213,800 in the May to July period, larger than the 203,000 recorded in the April to June period.

Meanwhile, the underemployment rate increased to 2.4% from 2.3% in the previous three months period. The number of underemployed persons increased to 88,600 from 84,900.

At the same time, total employment decreased by around 900 persons to 3.505 million, compared to the 3.506 million in the April to June period.

The labor force increased to a record high of 3.72 million in the May to July period from 3.71 million in the preceding three months period.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the Secretary for Labor and Welfare, said, Although the labor market showed signs of stabilization in the second quarter in tandem with the improvements on both domestic and external fronts, the unemployment rate will continue to face upward pressure as business sentiments remain cautious and employers are generally conservative in hiring new hands.

As the entry of fresh graduates and school leavers into the labor market usually peaks in August, the pressure on employment is expected to be fully reflected in the next two months., he added. The pace of the rise in the jobless rate is expected to be very slow and very subdued, the official said.

Hong Kong's economy emerged from the worst recession in the second quarter, prompting the government to raise the outlook for this year. Gross domestic product rose 3.3% sequentially in the second quarter after falling 4.3% in the first three months of the year, a preliminary report released by the Census and Statistics Department showed last week. That was the first increase following declines in four consecutive quarters.

The official noted that though there are encouraging signs of an economic recovery, the outlook remains highly uncertain. The government expects the recovery process to be rather bumpy depending on the developments in the global economy and the impact of swine flu.

Given the strong rebound in the second quarter, the gradual bottoming out in the global economy, and also taking into account the boost from the stimulus measures announced in May, the government revised its economic outlook for 2009, last week. It now expects the economy to contract by 3.5%-4.5% in real terms this year, up from 5.5%-6.5% decline forecast in May. Most private sector analysts are currently projecting the economy to contract by 3.5%-5.5%.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com