Hong Kong jobless rate drops to 4.6 percent

HONG KONG, March 18, 2010 (AFP) - Hong Kong said Thursday that its unemployment rate dropped to 4.6 percent between December and February as hiring continued to be boosted by a strong pick-up in economic activities.

The seasonally adjusted jobless rate was down from 4.9 percent for the November-January period, and was below the 4.8 percent forecast of 10 economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires.

The infrastructure, retail and food services, and transportation sectors were the biggest beneficiaries, the Census and Statistics Department said.

Total employment increased by about 7,900 to 3,513,600, while the labour force jumped 700 to 3,672,700 for the three months ending February, according to the department.

Matthew Cheung, the city's Secretary for Labour and Welfare, said he expected the jobless rate to continue to drop.

"Given the positive business sentiment and market feedback on vacancies, unemployment is likely to ease further in the next couple of months," he said.

The long-term outlook for the job market would hinge on the external environment and the pace of economic growth, he said.

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