Stable trade sector responsible for most of the recent growth, say analysts The number of people in work in Hong Kong reached another record during the three months to the end of November, supported by continuing strength in the trade sector, economists said yesterday. While the provisional seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained steady at 6.7 per cent, the number of people employed rose by about 9,700 from September, to 3,308,000. This compares with 15,400 jobs created in the three months to October. The figures were issued by the Census and Statistics Department. The total labour force, people actively seeking work or already employed, also rose by about 5,400. Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen said the government was pleased with the results. 'As far as unemployment is concerned, this government believes firmly in the principle of the market leads and government facilitates,' Mr Tang said. 'Since August last year, we have created more than 120,000 jobs, which is not a small number. And we will continue to adhere to this principle and work closely with the community.' HSBC greater China economist George Leung Siu-kay said the trade sector had been responsible for most of the recent growth. 'Basically it's a very stable picture,' Mr Leung said. 'We believe the trade numbers are still looking pretty good, so you are still seeing jobs being created in the trade and transport industries. This is still the driver behind job creation.' Despite strong Christmas period trade figures, he did not see the overall unemployment rate falling much further in the medium term. 'We believe that we will still be hovering above 6 per cent next year. The trade momentum will moderate next year,' he said, citing weakening US demand due to interest rate increases and the falling dollar. 'As a result, the job market will lose that support.' JPMorgan economist Ben Simpfendorfer believed Hong Kong's export outlook remained strong, although the upside for employment was limited by structural issues. 'We think it should get down to about 6.3 per cent towards the end of [next] year,' he said. Mr Simfendorfer said JPMorgan estimated Hong Kong's structural unemployment - mostly people made jobless by the transition from a manufacturing to a services-based economy - at about 6 per cent.