he local unemployment rate dropped for the third consecutive month to reach 2.1 % at the end of December, the lowest in almost 18 years.
This figure is the lowest since 1993, during the Portuguese Administration, and places the MSAR among the top countries and territories in the world. If included in a list of countries published by Trading Economics website, Macau would rank fourth in unemployment rate, just behind oil-rich Qatar (0.6 percent) and two regional rivals, Thailand (0.7 percent) and Singapore (two percent).
The jobless rate of local residents remained higher than the overall figure, but also decreased by 0.6 points to 2.7 percent – also the lowest since DSEC began collecting data, in 2008.
On the other hand the median monthly wage held stable at us$ 1,224 but the median salary of local residents grew by us$ 122.4 to us$ 1.469 in the last quarter. The unemployment drop is explained by the creation of 3,300 new jobs, mainly in the gaming industry and the hotel sector. On the contrary, the number of workers in restaurants and retail trade decreased.
At the end of last month there were about 339,800 people working in Macau, a new record high. The boost mainly came as more women joined the labour market, taking its participation rate to 68 percent, up by 0.6 points. The percentage of men who are working also rose by 0.3 points to 78.4 percent.
Meanwhile the number of jobless decreased by 600 from the previous period to 7,400 – the lowest in almost 13 years. A significant part of the jobless, 12.4 percent, were fresh labour force entrants searching for their first job, down by 2.9 points. The underemployed rate – percentage of people working in jobs below their qualifications or who can only find part-time work – dropped by 0.2 points to just 0.9 percent.
The unemployment drop is even more impressive considering that the working-age population increased by 2,700 to hit a highest-ever figure of 347,200 in the October-December period. With economic growth expected to continue the working-age population could rise by 10 percent in 2012, Francis Tam said last November.
The financial regulator also expects the unemployment news to remain positive. In a report released last week, the Monetary Authority said it expects the jobless rate to remain around 2.3 percent.
However, the government remains cautious about a possible cooling down of the economy and its impact on the job market. Last month the director of the Labour Affairs Bureau vowed to roll out measures to protect local workers’ jobs if necessary, while easing the importation of labour to meet the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).