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Hong Kong Jobless Rate Falls to Lowest Since September 2008

April 19 (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s unemployment rate fell to the lowest level since September 2008, encouraging consumer spending and aiding the city’s economic expansion.

The jobless rate for the three months through March was 3.4 percent, the government said on its website today. That compares with 3.6 percent in the previous period and the 3.5 percent median estimate of 13 economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

Financial Secretary John Tsang said last week that growth will remain “robust,” with the economy expanding as much as 5 percent this year, boosting wages and supporting the labor market. Risks include the threat to exports from Japan’s earthquake and the Europe sovereign-debt crisis, and the danger that a bubble will form in Hong Kong’s property market, according to Tsang.

“Strong domestic demand is pointing to a continued tight labor market,” Frances Cheung, a strategist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, said before today’s data. The jobless rate may fall to 3.2 percent by year-end, she said.

The introduction of an HK$28 ($3.60) per-hour minimum wage may increase business costs and restrain hiring. The measure will take effect May 1 and may boost the pay of 314,600 workers, according to Matthew Cheung, the Hong Kong labor secretary.

Hong Kong’s gross domestic product grew a more-than-estimated 6.8 percent last year. The first-quarter economic report is due May 13.

-- With assistance from Michael Munoz. Editors: Paul Panckhurst, Stephanie Phang.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Panckhurst in Hong Kong at ppanckhurst@bloomberg.net

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