Hong Kong’s unemployment rate hit a 16-year high of 6.6 per cent in the final quarter of last year, figures released on Tuesday showed, as the economy struggled during the coronavirus pandemic.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 0.3 per cent from 6.3 per cent in the September to November period, with over 245,000 people out of a job.

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Photo: Kaiser/HKFP.

Unemployment rose in almost all sectors, with a 13.8 per cent rate in the food and beverage service activities sector as coronavirus-related closures took a heavy toll.

Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said the labour market had worsened further because of the latest wave of the pandemic.

“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,” said Law in a statement.

“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.”

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Law Chi-kwong. File photo: Screenshot/RTHK.

Hong Kong has been struggling with the fourth wave since November last year. The city has recorded 9,721 infections since the beginning of the pandemic and 164 people have died.

Businesses were hard-hit by social-distancing rules such as the compulsory closures of gyms and beauty parlours, and group gathering restrictions of no more than two people.

Responding to industries’ requests for a partial opening up, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the government had been in talks with industry representatives over the last couple of months but there were no plans to extend the employment support scheme.

The government announced a fourth round of relief measures in December last year, with HK$6.4 billion targeted at severely hit sectors.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.