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Hong Kong's Unemployment at 3 Year High

Swine Flu affects labor markets

Hong Kong's jobless rate increased to 5.3% in the three months ending April, government statistics showed May 18, the highest level in three years.

The figure is up from 5.2% in the three months ending March, as the manufacturing, construction and food sectors were hit by a reduction in work, the Census and Statistics Department said.

The number of unemployed people increased by around 9,700 to 196,900 over the period, while the workforce increased by around 4,100 to an all-time high of 3,699,000, the figures showed.

Secretary for Labor Matthew Cheung said the unemployment rate was expected to remain high in the short term as labor market demand remained weak under the deepening impact of the recession.

The outbreak of human swine flu has also emerged as a new source of uncertainty and pressure on the labor market, Cheung said."We will continue to adhere to our strategy of stabilizing the financial system, supporting enterprises and preserving employment," he said.

Hong Kong's economy is expected to contract by between 5.5 and 6.5% in 2009, as the export and financial hub is buffeted by the global slowdown.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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