China's services sector expands in March, job growth at 10-month low: survey

Thu Apr 2, 2015 10:16pm EDT
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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's services sector expanded in March even as growth in employment and new business fell to their lowest in at least eight months, a private survey showed on Friday, in yet another sign that the weak Chinese economy may need more policy aid.

The HSBC/Markit China Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) inched higher to 52.3 in March, compared with February's 52.0, and above the 50-point level that separates growth from a contraction in activity on a monthly basis.

But the marginal expansion was offset by lackluster growth in employment, which fell to a 10-month trough of 51.1. Growth in new businesses was at an eight-month low.

"Chinese manufacturers and service providers both managed only modest increases in output at the end of the first quarter," said Annabel Fiddes, economist at Markit, adding that data "suggests that relatively weak client demand had dampened growth across both sectors".

Fiddes said service sector companies "took a more cautious approach to hiring, raising their staff numbers only slightly over the month, while job shedding accelerated across the manufacturing sector".

The services survey resonates with three other PMIs released earlier this week that showed stubborn weakness in China's factory and services sectors last month, adding to bets that Beijing will have to increase policy support to avoid a sharper downturn.

Slugged by a cooling property sector - where prices fell at a record pace last month - and a slowdown in exports and investment, China's economic growth is expected to slip to around 7 percent this year, the worst in a quarter of a century.

A RARE BRIGHT SPOT   Continued...

People walk past a statue, placed there to promote a restaurant, at a shopping district in Beijing April 3, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon