previous month due to rising new orders and projects, while 17 percent of firms reported an increase in new business.
Services firms overtook manufacturers to be the biggest employer in China for the first time ever in 2011, accounting for 35 percent of all jobs. Manufacturing jobs in turn accounted for 30 percent of total employment.
Chinese services firms have survived the global financial crisis much better than factories, partly because they do not rely on exports for growth unlike manufacturers.
China's exporters took a beating in the latest global economic slowdown as belt-tightening by U.S. and European shoppers has sapped demand for Chinese goods. As a result, net exports have dragged on China's economic growth in the last two years.
Chinese services firms, on the other hand, cater to the more resilient domestic market that is supported by stubbornly strong house prices. (Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
Hong Kong's January PMI at 52.5 shows strongest rise in 11 months
The latest PMI figure signalled the strongest improvement in private sector business conditions in Hong Kong since last February.
* Growth in the volume of new orders has been sustained for three months, with the latest rise the fastest since February 2012. New orders from mainland China also increased in January, after having fallen in December.
* The output index increased for the fourth consecutive month in January and the rate of growth was at an 11-month high.
* Private sector employment fell in January, ending a three-month sequence of job creation.
* Private sector companies faced a further increase in input costs, with both purchase prices and staff costs rising. Input price inflation was strong and the fastest in 10 months.
Commenting on the Hong Kong PMI survey:
"Hong Kong's steady recovery strengthened into the New Year, boosted further by the renewed expansion of mainland orders," Donna Kwok, HSBC Greater China economist in Hong Kong, said