THE flow of manufacturing jobs from Hongkong to China continued to grow in the quarter to December last year, when there were 10.2 per cent fewer positions in the territory compared with December 1991. The Census and Statistics Department said yesterday there were 565,100 jobs in December compared with 571,200 in September and 629,200 in December 1991. It said the drop reflected the continuing structural change in Hongkong's economy as more firms moved to China. However, the decline was nearly balanced by employment increases in the construction, service and finance sectors, which saw 62,600 more jobs last year. Employment in the service sector, which comprises wholesale, retail, import-export, restaurant and hotel jobs, rose 4.9 per cent to 914,800 jobs. Employment in finance, insurance, property and business services was up 6.3 per cent to 314,500. The number of construction posts rose 0.3 per cent to 59,500. W.I. Carr economist Keith Ferguson said he had expected a sharper decline in the number of manufacturing jobs, because industrial output in Guangdong had been stronger towards the end of last year, increasing demand for skilled workers. He said the rate of the fall indicated that the structural shift in Hongkong employment was slowing. Mr Ferguson said Hongkong's manufacturing sector had narrowed to core businesses which relied on equipment and technology. The bad employment news in the manufacturing sector was also evident in the number of vacancies reported. It fell 23 per cent to 17,690 in December compared with a year earlier. The number of vacant service sector positions rose 11 per cent to 33,550, while those in finance climbed 7.9 per cent to 8,830. The number of reported construction vacancies tumbled 14.3 per cent to 480. Vickers Ballas research manager Stella Fung expects Hongkong's shift to a service-oriented economy to continue this year. She said there was tight supply for service sector jobs because many redundant manufacturing employees had yet to be trained to fill them. She said this situation should improve as younger workers entered the workforce. During the 12 months, average earnings in all major sectors were up. The manufacturing sector posted the highest jump. The nominal index rose 24.4 per cent to 145.1, primarily due to the issuance of bonuses shortly before the Lunar New Year.