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Hong Kong Jobless Rate Slides to Lowest in 19 Months

Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s jobless rate fell to the lowest level since December 2008, encouraging consumers to spend and aiding the city’s recovery.

The rate for the three months ended July 31 was 4.3 percent, compared with 4.6 percent in the second quarter, the government said today on its website. That was lower than the median 4.5 percent estimate of nine economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. The figures are seasonally adjusted.

The city’s sustained recovery is encouraging companies to hire, the government said today, after Hong Kong last week reported a third straight expansion from a year earlier. Risks to growth include weakness in the U.S. and European economies capping demand for exports shipped through the city.

Reduced unemployment “is definitely going to support domestic consumption,” Tomo Kinoshita, a Hong Kong-based economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. said before today’s release. He expects the jobless rate to slide to 3.9 percent in the fourth quarter.

None of the economists expected today’s number to be so low.

Hong Kong’s economy expanded a more-than-estimated 6.5 percent in the second quarter, the government said last week.. Financial Secretary John Tsang said Aug. 13 that the jobless rate “will see further improvements in the months to come.”

The government estimates the economy may grow as much as 6 percent for the full year, after a 2.8 percent contraction in 2009.

-- With assistance from Michael Munoz. Editors: Paul Panckhurst, Cherian Thomas.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophie Leung in Hong Kong at sleung59@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Russell Ward at rward16@bloomberg.net

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