Job turnover and vacancy rates rose to three-year highs in the first half, reflecting growing labour market activity and increased competition among employers, especially for managerial staff, the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management said. 'With continued strong demand for labour, the unemployment rate is set to remain on a downward path for the time being,' institute president Lai Kam-tong said. 'Meanwhile, more job openings are making it easier for people to switch jobs. This inevitably makes life more difficult for employers, especially when trying to fill positions requiring skills and experience. According to our data, staff at the managerial level are the most sought-after in the job market.' The institute's latest quarterly manpower survey shows the overall turnover rate rising to 6.04 per cent in the first half of this year, up from 5.98 per cent in the previous six-month period. The vacancy rate also jumped to 2.82 per cent from 2.5 per cent. Both are the highest half-year levels recorded since the survey started in 2003. On a quarterly basis, the turnover rate increased to 3.08 per cent in the second quarter compared to 2.97 per cent in the first three months of this year. However, the vacancy rate dipped slightly to 2.79 per cent, from 2.85 per cent in the first quarter. Middle-management positions dominated, with a 3.97 per cent turnover rate and a 4.27 per cent vacancy rate. The survey covered 124 companies representing more than 110,500 employees. Mr Lai said the robust post-Sars economic recovery starting in 2004 provided a strong boost to businesses, especially in the retail sector. As the tourism boom spread, many companies had expanded their operations to cope with the consumer demand. 'In order to run those businesses, you need people at the middle level,' he said. Mr Lai said the retail trade, which suffered the highest turnover and vacancy rates among business sectors in the first quarter, was replaced by the wholesale trading and financial services sectors in the second quarter.