Drop in trade, wages amid economic gloom
The global downturn continued to take a heavy toll on the local economy as trade suffered double-digit declines last month and average wages dropped in the fourth quarter of last year.
According to Census and Statistics Department data, the value of the city's total exports last month fell 23 per cent year on year to HK$141.9 billion. January's exports were already down 21.8 per cent. Imports shrank 17.5 per cent in February to HK$165.1 billion, less than the 27.1 per cent fall in January.
For the first two months, exports dropped 22.4 per cent, and imports fell 22.8 per cent. The data for these two months taken together is usually a more accurate indicator than single-month results, which are distorted by the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday.
A spokesman for the government warned that the trading environment would remain very difficult in the coming months.
'It should be noted that the decline in Hong Kong's exports was part of a region-wide phenomenon and that exports of many other Asian economies fell by around 20 to 40 per cent over the same period,' the spokesman said.
'While Hong Kong's exports to the advanced economies fell notably, those to the other Asian economies also declined markedly. The latter reflected the weakening Asian economic conditions, as well as the adverse impact of the financial crisis on production activities in Asia, to which intra-regional trade is closely related.'
The overall average wage rate for all the major sectors surveyed decreased by 0.1 per cent in real terms in December from a year earlier.
Year-on-year decreases of 0.6 to 5.4 per cent were recorded in the real-wage indices of all the major sectors polled in December, except the financing, insurance, real estate and business services sectors, where the index stayed virtually the same when compared with December 2007.
The biggest fall was recorded in transport services.
Other sectors polled by the department were manufacturing; wholesale, retail and import and export trades; restaurants and hotels; and personal services.
Real payroll indices also fell by 1.1 to 5.2 per cent in all major sectors in the fourth quarter of last year compared with the same period in 2007.
The biggest decrease was recorded in financing, insurance, real estate and business services.
After accounting for inflation, the average payroll per employed person in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with a year earlier, fell: 4.3%