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Hong Kong Hit by Record Unemployment - 2003-08-25

Hong Kong has been hit by record unemployment and South Korea is growing at the slowest rate in four and a half years, but elsewhere in Asia there are signs of economic recovery.

The Hong Kong government says the unemployment rate was 8.7 percent during the three-month period to July. While that is a new record, government leaders and economists noted that it was an increase of only one-tenth of a percentage point over the previous period.

Hong Kong Financial Secretary Henry Tang says the worst for the territory's economy, which was badly hit by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, may be over. "The unemployment rate is beginning to stabilize, our economy is beginning to show some signs of recover, airports are showing that they are almost back to pre-SARS level in terms of visitors per day," he says.

Hong Kong's underemployment rate - people who have jobs but do not make enough to meet basic needs - showed a slight improvement. It dropped by one-tenth of a percentage point, to four-point-two percent.

The Confederation of Indian Industry is revising its forecast for India's growth upward, to a projected 6.8 percent for the year to March 2004. It was originally projected at six percent. The industrial body says India is experiencing a rebound in agricultural and industrial growth.

Singapore's exports are showing signs of reviving. Non-oil domestic exports in July grew nearly 11-percent compared with the previous July.

That was the second straight month of double-digit growth in this sector, which is a key measure for Singapore's export-dependent economy.

Economists say the trend shows Singapore may also be emerging from the doldrums brought on by SARS. But the government warns that global demand for electronics, which make up nearly half the country's industrial output, remains weak.