In the three months to December, the jobless rate fell for residents (3.0 percent from 3.1 percent) and citizens (3.0 percent from 3.2 percent).
Total employment increased by 12,700, following declines in the prior three quarters. Employment in services sector surged to 18,200 from 7,400 in the September quarter, supported by hiring for the year-end festive season. Meantime, employment contracted less in manufacturing (-1,300 from -2,100) and construction (-5,700 from -9,500).
Some 3,680 workers were laid off, up from 3,400 workers in the September quarter but still lower than the same period a year ago (5,440).
The rate of re-entry among retrenched residents fell to 63 percent from 66 percent in the preceding quarter.The decline was observed across occupational groups, with clerical, sales & service workers and production & related workers seeing larger declines than professionals, managers, executives and technicians/PMETs.
The number of job vacancies among private sector establishments with at least 25 employees and the public sector stood at 49,700, broadly similar to the prior quarter (49,500). Meantime, including the estimated number of job vacancies from private sector establishments with less than 25 employees, the number of job vacancies for the whole economy posted an increase. The seasonally adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons improved to 92 job vacancies per 100 unemployed persons (from 89 in Q3), continuing the uptrend since the beginning of 2017.
Both the seasonally adjusted recruitment rate (2.3 percent from 2.1 percent in Q3) and resignation (1.9 percent from 1.8 percent) went up. This brought the rates back to levels seen two years ago.
For full 2017, the annual average unemployment rate edged up to 2.2 percent from 2.1 percent in 2016. It was the highest annual figure since 2010. Unemployment increased both among resident (3.1 percent from 3.0 percent in 2016) and citizens (3.3 percent from 3.1 percent).
Total employment declined by 10,700, the first drop since 2003 (-11,700). This was due to a larger contraction in foreign employment (-32,000 compared to -2,500 in 2016), mainly from a decrease in Work Permit Holders in the construction and marine shipyard sectors. On the other hand, local employment growth in 2017 (21,300) was nearly double that in 2016 (11,200). Excluding construction and marine shipyard, total employment grew by 41,300, higher than the growth in 2016 (30,100). Growth was mainly in the services sectors of community, social & personal services (8,900), administrative & support services (8,600), finance & insurance services (6,200) and transportation & storage (5,900).
Total retrenchments were lower than the past two years, though it remained higher than the levels seen in 2010 to 2014. On-going business reorganisation and restructuring remained the top reason for retrenchments in 2017.
The annual average rate of re-entry among residents made redundant remained broadly within the range of rates observed in 2016.