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First-quarter jobless rate drops to 16-year low

Hong Kong's jobless rate of 3.1% is a 16-year low.

Hong Kong’s unemployment rate edged down to a 16-year low of 3.1% in the first quarter, reflecting a further tight labor market amidst buoyant business optimism, according to the First Quarter Economic Report 2014 released by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government.

The economy, meanwhile, registered a moderate 2.5% growth following a 2.9% growth in the preceding quarter due to sluggish merchandise exports. But services exports and the domestic sector continued to expand.

Exports to major advanced markets slackened sharply at the start of the quarter before a visible pickup in March. Major Asian markets also showed lackluster performance during most of the quarter. Private consumption expenditure grew further, by 2% year-on-year in real terms.  Investment expenditure rose moderately, by 3%, mainly driven by the surge in building and construction expenditure. Machinery and equipment acquisition recorded a slight increase after several quarters of robust growth.
The local stock market underwent some correction in the quarter.  The residential property market stayed quiet, with both prices and rentals trending down.

Looking ahead, though the global economy started slow in 2014, the improved outlook for the year as a whole does not seem to have shifted by a significant extent.  Barring an unexpected relapse stemming from the normalization of U.S. monetary policy and geopolitical tensions, Hong Kong’s economy is expected to register faster growth the rest of the year. The earlier GDP growth forecast of 3-4% for 2014 remains unchanged.


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