Hong Kong’s unemployment rate has risen to its highest level since 2004 amid the coronavirus outbreak, and the labour minister warned that the job market still faces challenges with the pandemic not yet fully contained here.

The jobless rate for the three months ending February reached 7.2 percent, up from 7 percent in the November-January period.

More than 261,000 people were left without a job in the period under review. That’s 8,300 more than before.

Among different sectors, the jobless rate in consumption- and tourism-related sectors combined stood at just over 11 percent, despite having dropped slightly from the previous period.

Decline in the unemployment rate was also seen in the food and beverage service sector, but the retail and most other industries have deteriorated.

As for the underemployment rate, the latest figure reached a post-Sars high of 4 percent.

The city’s jobless rate hit an all-time high of 8.5 percent during the Sars outbreak in 2003.

Commenting on the latest figures, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said the labour market remained under notable pressure, although the situation seemed to stabilise later in the period thanks to improvement in the local epidemic situation.

Law said challenges remain in the near term amid the epidemic, but is hopeful that the city-wide Covid-19 vaccination programme could help to ease the pressure on the employment market later in the year.