Lacklustre investment in machinery equipment, building and construction slowed economic growth in the first quarter to 5.6 per cent, a level the government believes is more in line with Hong Kong's mature economy. 'It's still a very good number because the economy has been growing very strongly for 14 consecutive quarters,' acting government economist Helen Chan said. The official full-year projection remains 4.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent. The latest quarterly result comes off robust 8.1 per cent growth a year ago and falls short of consensus estimates of 6.4 per cent. Economists expect growth to accelerate in the second quarter if there is a pickup in machinery, building and construction investment - or gross domestic fixed capital formation. This investment grew 3.9 per cent compared with 9.4 per cent in the previous quarter and 7.3 per cent a year ago. 'It's a little weaker than expected at 3.9 per cent. But there is a chance it will pick up if economic growth stays at least around the 5 per cent or 6 per cent level,' Hang Seng Bank economist Vincent Kwan Wing-shing said. The bank's full-year growth forecast remains at 5.6 per cent. Of the first quarter's gross domestic fixed capital formation, building and construction investment fell by 5.4 per cent from minus 2.8 per cent quarter on quarter. Machinery, equipment and computer software investment growth also shrunk to 6.8 per cent from 14.9 per cent. The construction sector has been a consistent laggard in the economic recovery despite an improving property market outlook. Joblessness among construction workers is still relatively high compared with the city's 4.3 per cent unemployment rate. Unemployment among lower-skilled workers last month stood at 5.2 per cent compared with 2 per cent for professional and managerial staff. Overall wages improved 4 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, however, helping consumption spending. The number of personal bankruptcy petitions for April fell to 929, down 12.7 per cent from the previous month's 1,064, according to the Official Receiver's Office. Citigroup senior economist Joe Lo Nim-cho said the relatively low jobless rate and tax cuts are expected to support consumer spending. HSBC economist George Leung Siu-kay said domestic demand will be a key driver of growth as the economy remains fundamentally robust. Hong Kong is increasingly relying on consumption spending to spur growth as exports take a back seat due to services and slower demand from the United States. First-quarter exports of goods fell to 8.2 per cent versus 14.4 per cent a year ago. There are concerns about creeping inflation, which stands at 1.7 per cent for the first quarter. Although the government is maintaining its full-year estimate of 1.5 per cent, HSBC's Mr Leung believes core inflation will rise to about 2 per cent this year and more than 3 per cent if one-off relief measures are excluded.