BEIJING, April 3 (Reuters) - China’s services sector expanded in March even as growth in employment and new businesses fell to the slowest pace in at least eight months, a private survey showed on Friday, 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, from February’s 52.0, and remained comfortably above the 50-point level that separates growth from a contraction in activity on a monthly basis.
But the marginal expansion was offset by lacklustre growth in employment, which fell to a 10-month trough of 51.1. Growth in new businesses also clung to a eight-month low.
The data 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 would 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.
Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Richard Borsuk