Preliminary estimates show that total employment declined marginally by 1,000 in the first quarter of 2009 as the economy continued to worsen.
Falling external demand has severely affected the manufacturing sector where employment declined by 19,900, deeper than the 7,000 loss in the earlier quarter. Supported by a strong pipeline of building projects, construction employment grew by 8,500 in the first quarter of 2009, but lower than the gains in the earlier quarters. Services added 10,300 workers, substantially lower than before.
The number of workers retrenched rose to 10,800 in the first quarter of 2009 from 7,500 in the previous quarter. Together with 1,800 workers whose contracts were terminated prematurely in the first quarter of 2009, total redundancy increased to 12,600, higher than the 9,410 in the previous quarter.
Most of the workers affected by redundancy in the first quarter of 2009 came from manufacturing which laid off 9,000 workers, mainly from the electronics industry. Another 2,900 workers were laid off from services and 700 from construction.
Reflecting the sharp deterioration in economic conditions, the overall unemployment rate rose from 2.5% in December 2008 to 3.2% in March 2009. Among the resident labour force, the unemployment rate increased from 3.6% in December 2008 to a five-year high of 4.8% in March 2009.
On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the overall unemployment rate rose from 2.4% in December 2008 to 2.9% in March 2009 even though students who looked for work during the year-end school vacation had returned to school. Among the resident labour force, the non-adjusted unemployment rate was 4.4% in March 2009, which was also higher than the 3.5% in the previous quarter. An estimated 87,800 residents were unemployed in March 2009. The seasonally adjusted figure was 95,600, a substantial increase from 71,800 in December 2008.