Hong Kong employers anticipate healthy growth in the labour market in the third quarter, a survey revealed yesterday. Twenty-five per cent of Hong Kong employers plan to take on more staff in the July-September quarter, with only 2 per cent expecting a decrease in staffing levels. For the same quarter last year, 17 per cent of employers expected to reduce their workforce and only 12 per cent anticipated an increase. The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey is conducted quarterly by employment services firm Manpower Asia-Pacific. The latest survey, for which 576 employers were interviewed, measured their intentions to increase or decrease the size of their workforce in the next quarter. The results come ahead of the quarterly unemployment figure, to be released tomorrow. Iain Herbertson, a senior vice-president and managing director of Manpower, attributed the sharp contrast between the two quarters to the threat of Sars last year, which led to job losses by restricting trade and travel. 'The negative sentiment surrounding Sars has almost disappeared,' Mr Herbertson said. 'The healthy net employment outlook figure for Hong Kong can be attributed to several factors, one of which is the lowered unemployment rate, which fell to a 17-month low in April. 'This was a result of booming tourism and improved consumer spending, which helped spur job creation.' Employers across all industry sectors were positive. Those in the transport and utilities sector were the most optimistic, with 42 per cent expecting to increase hiring, compared with 33 per cent of those in the finance, insurance and real estate industries, and 23 per cent in the wholesale and retail sector. Overall, there were strong indications of a strengthening labour market, said Mr Herbertson.