Hong Kong's unemployment rate probably held unchanged at a five-year low of 4.9 percent in April-June, seasonally adjusted, as an expanding labor force offset job creation, a Reuters survey shows.
Companies continued to hire staff on optimism about the business outlook, although slowing economic growth could curb hiring later in the year, economists said.
Hong Kong's economy has been one of Asia's best performers, expanding by more than 7 percent annually in the past two years, but economists expect growth to slow this year to about 6 percent.
A recent purchasing managers' index showed hiring by companies in the private sector in June was at its highest level since March.
The labor force also probably expanded in April-June as a buoyant job market encouraged more people to look for work, economists said.
The government is due to release April-June unemployment data on Tuesday after 4.15 pm.
Unemployment fell below the key 5 percent mark in March-May to 4.9 percent, a five-year low. After stagnating at 5.2-5.3 percent for the six months through March, the rate has fallen steadily.
"The pace of decline is likely to be quite gradual," said Tai Hui, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank.
"The labor market is improving but there are still a lot of structural issues, especially in the manufacturing sector."
Jobs in manufacturing and other sectors have been lost to the mainland and are not easily replaceable in a service-oriented economy.
The financial services sector has been a driver of hiring this year, reflecting Hong Kong's expanding role as a financial services hub for the mainland.
The trade sector is another major employer but job vacancies are expected to ease in tandem with a slowdown in exports as global economic growth cools, economists said.
(China Daily HK Edition July 15, 2006)