Monday, a report by Hong Kong's Census and Statistics Department said the seasonally adjusted jobless rate stood at 5.2% in the January to March period, up from 5% in the December to February period. Economists expected the rate to come in at 5.3%.

Unadjusted, the number of unemployed persons increased to 187,200 in the January to March period from 172,000 in the previous three-month period.

At the same time, the number of underemployed persons rose to 79,200 from 76,100 in the preceding three-month period. The underemployment rate stood at 2.1%, unchanged from the previous period.

Meanwhile, total employment decreased by 5,500 to 3.5 million in the January to March period. However, the labor force increased to an all-time high of 3.69 million from 3.68 million in the December to February period.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Secretary for Labor and Welfare said in a statement that the unemployment rate would continue to face upward pressure in the near term, given the tough economic environment and weak labor market.

We are implementing progressively the series of measures announced earlier to stabilize the financial system, support enterprises, preserve and create jobs, the Secretary said.

In March, according to the Labor Department, there were 50,000 vacancies in the private sector, representing a decline of 11.4% from last year, but an increase of 0.6% from the previous month.

Cheung Kin-chung pointed out that the Employees Retraining Board planed to provide a maximum of 143,000 training places this financial year to meet the increasing demand.

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