The local economy finally has some good news for the jobs market. The unemployment rate is expected to drop to 6 per cent this year from a record high of 8.7 per cent last summer, according to government statistics. The rate is forecast to drop the fastest in the luxury goods sector - which includes designer brands, jewellery and electrical appliances - the restaurant business and trade-related logistics. In contrast, unemployment in the construction industry is expected to rise slowly. 'The labour market has improved and will continue to do so,' says DBS Bank senior economist Chris Leung Siu-kei. A number of factors have contributed to the upturn, he says. Firstly, the rise in the number of mainland tourists to Hong Kong following the relaxation of restrictions on individual travel has boosted the travel and retail industries and promoted prosperity as a whole, Mr Leung says. Secondly, the property market is starting to see the light at the end of its dark tunnel. Third, the signing of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa) between Hong Kong and the mainland has offered direct benefits to some industries and boosted Hong Kong's confidence. Mr Leung says Cepa has been successful in the sense that it has boosted public confidence. 'All that matters is whether you are prepared to grab the opportunity.' Thanks to Cepa, for example, the banking industry is hiring professionals with a good knowledge of the China market, Mr Leung says. 'Banks are in need of people who can speak English and Chinese, have an international perspective and are willing to travel in the region. China needs experts from Hong Kong and Hong Kong needs money from China. I believe the demand will only increase.' New job opportunities will also follow China's realisation of commitments to liberalise its service industries, including banking. 'Since China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, its liberalisation has concentrated on tariff reduction,' says Mr Leung. 'It is now time for [the country] to open up the servicing industries.' However, he warns, the pickup pace in the jobs market will not be as fast as it was during the early 1990s. 'Though there is room for expansion, corporations are cautious. Plus, the selection process is more intense and careful.' One group of people who will find it tough despite the recovery in the jobs market are young graduates, Mr Leung says. 'There might not be enough places for fresh graduates. It is believed it will be easier to find a job but not to get a 'dream' job.' Recruitment firms and agents say business has picked up since the end of last year. Fiona Yung, director of Tricor Executive Resources, says the company is handling at least 50 per cent more business than it was a year ago. 'We are very busy with assignments in both Hong Kong and China,' she says. 'The final quarter of last year was good and demand has been steadily increasing.' Although opportunities for new graduates are limited, she says, young people who do well have a bright future. 'It will be easier if they have a more specialised focus, say in accounting,' she says. 'Every year, the accounting firms recruit trainees from campuses. And major corporations also offer management trainee programmes to performing students.' Top students can always impress employers with high grades and good language and communication skills, she says.