HONG KONG'S unemployment rate has peaked and will begin to fall as an anticipated economic recovery takes off, economists say. A survey of economists employed by banks and fund management groups found quiet optimism in Hong Kong's capacity to peg back the recent surge in the numbers looking for work. It follows the government announcement on Tuesday that the territory's unemployment rate last month topped three per cent, the highest in nine years. In the first three months of the year, about 78,800 people - 2.8 per cent of the workforce - were looking for work. A total of 6,300 were first-time job seekers. About one in three of the jobless quit their previous job because they were dissatisfied with it. About 60 per cent of the unemployed were out of work for less than three months while fewer than one in 10 failed to find another job within a year. Governor Chris Patten will today meet union officials and their Legislative Council representatives to discuss the problem. Government economists said there was no evidence that imported labour was a cause of the unemployment problem. South China Research head of research C K Law said: 'The Government explained that the importation scheme mostly brings technicians and skilled labour into Hong Kong, whose talent is in great demand. 'But we can easily observe that relatively low-skill foreign labour is employed in restaurants, retail stores and construction sites under various arrangements.' The Government recently announced that it planned to review the quotas. Other economists generally supported the official explanation that the unemployment increase was a combination of seasonal factors and underlying structural changes in the economy. Employees being shed by the contracting manufacturing sector were finding it increasingly difficult to find work in recession-hit restaurant and retailing businesses.