Unemployment likely to remain high for a while: FS

Financial Secretary Paul Chan on Sunday warned that it might take some time for the city’s jobless rate to go down again, after unemployment climbed to its highest level in nine months.

The latest unemployment figure rose to 5 percent in the period from January to March this year, compared with 4.5 percent in the December-February interval.

On his official blog, the financial chief said the stabilising local Covid-19 situation, gradual easing of social distancing measures, and new round of electronic consumption vouchers are all expected to help the economy improve steadily this quarter.

But he said many businesses and workers are still suffering due to the pandemic, adding that the upcoming jobless rate will continue to reflect the difficult situation brought on by the fifth wave of Covid infections.

Chan also said that Hong Kong’s inflation rate is “relatively mild” for now, but people should stay vigilant against what he called “turbulent” external factors, pointing in particular to geopolitics and interest rate rises.

He said the government will monitor the local interest rate, exchange rate, and capital outflow, among other things.

In addition, the top official said the government is going to announce its annual account for the 2021-22 financial year in the coming days, and that the administration has recorded a fiscal surplus of more than HK$29 billion, up from the earlier estimate of HK$18.9 billion.