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The unemployment rate in Hong Kong rose to a 16-year high of 6.6% in the October-to-December quarter, according to the latest data released by the Census and Statistics Department. 

About 245000 people in the city were jobless during the period, and the underemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.4%.

Law Chi-kwong, the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, explained that the labour market deteriorated again due to the fourth wave of the epidemic which started in the latter part of November. 

The jobless rate of consumption- and tourism-related sectors such as retail, accommodation, food services surged again, increasing by 0.5% to 10.6%. Of these, the food and beverage sector took the hardest hit as the unemployment rate climbed to 13.8. 

Looking ahead, Law said, "As the fourth wave of the local epidemic continues to weigh on local consumption sentiment and disrupt economic activities, the labour market will remain under notable pressure in the near term. The government has rolled out targeted measures lately to provide further support to the hard-hit sectors, and will continue to monitor the situation closely."

The highest jobless rate in Hong Kong remains 7.9% in 2003, under the impact of SARS.

Photo/ The College Investor