AVERAGE payrolls in Hong Kong rose by just under five per cent in real terms in the year to December, with the soft property and share markets taking a toll on the finance sector. Payrolls for people in the finance, insurance, real estate and business services sectors fell in real terms in the year, according to the latest numbers from the Census and Statistics Department. Salomon Brothers economist Kevin Chan said: 'That's not surprising given the performance of that sector.' Releasing the latest data on payrolls for December 1994, against December 1993, the department said the payroll per person in these sectors grew 2.1 per cent in nominal terms, but fell 6.4 per cent in real terms. Average labour earnings in major sectors of the economy taken together rose 14.3 per cent in the year to December. After including changes in Hong Kong's consumer prices, the department said the real increase for all major sectors of the economy was 4.8 per cent in real terms. 'We interpret that [in the latest figures] the employment data and gross domestic product [GDP] of 5.5 per cent as being consistent with our view that Hong Kong is slowing down.' Overall, manufacturing, the hospitality industry, and import-export sectors, recorded more modest increases in the year to December. The hospitality trade, retail and import-export sectors lagged other segments of the economy, the department said, with average payrolls increasing by a nominal 11.8 per cent or 2.6 per cent in real terms year-on-year. Mr Chan said he predicted continued weak demand for the next two quarters in retailing and the restaurant sectors. He forecast a rebound in the fourth quarter as the airport project kicked in and as people became more confident that the latest round of interest rate rises was over.