(Updates with spokesman’s comments on jobs outlook in seventh, final paragraphs)
Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- China had the best third quarter for job creation in “several” years, the government said today, indicating the slowest economic expansion in two years hasn’t yet damped employment.
The nation registered a total 9.94 million new urban positions in the first nine months, exceeding the government’s full-year target of 9 million, Yin Chengji, a spokesman for the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said at a briefing in Beijing. That compares with 6.55 million in the first half and 9.31 million in the same period last year, according to previously released data.
Premier Wen Jiabao said over the weekend that employment should be made “even more of a priority” amid slowing growth and declining demand from overseas. An estimated 20 million rural migrant workers, 15.3 percent of the total floating population, lost their jobs during the 2008 financial crisis, according to government data.
“The job situation is less serious than in 2008 when external demand slumped significantly and lots of small companies went bankrupt,” said Chang Jian, a Hong Kong-based economist with Barclays Capital. “Anecdotal evidence shows demand for labor in some coastal areas remains tight and there haven’t been broad-based factory closures.”
China expanded 9.1 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, the least in two years, as export growth moderated.
No ‘Noticeable Impact’
The economic slowdown hasn’t had a “noticeable impact” on employment, Yin said today. The ministry is “closely monitoring” economic developments and will take targeted steps to maintain stability in the jobs market if needed, he said.
Government measures to restructure the economy have helped ensure that jobs and wages have increased even as overall growth has slowed, Yin said.
China’s policy makers set a target of keeping the urban jobless rate within 4.6 percent this year. The level was 4.1 percent at the end of September, the ministry said today, without saying how many people were without work. The rate, which was unchanged for the fifth straight quarter, has fallen from a more than eight-year high of 4.3 percent in 2009 during the previous financial crisis.
The government set a jobless target of 4.6 percent in 2009.
The official data understate unemployment because they exclude millions of rural workers who migrate from one province to another to find jobs. A survey of the entire population in 2008 showed the estimated unemployment rate may have reached 9.4 percent that year, according to the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“ You can’t rely on government data as the jobless rate is collected based on workers’ voluntary registration,” said Andy Xie, an independent analyst based in Shanghai who was former chief Asia economist for Morgan Stanley in Hong Kong.
While the nation is facing a shortage of blue-collar workers for jobs in factories and restaurants, university graduates are struggling to find jobs, Xie said.
“The job-seeking problems facing China’s 6 million university graduates every year are structural,” he said.
China’s overall employment situation is still “very grim,” ministry spokesman Yin said, referring to challenges that include the “large number” of new job seekers entering the labor market every year and more college graduates.
There are also “structural problems” where some companies are suffering labor shortages while at the same time many job- seekers are unable to find work, he said.
--Zheng Lifei, Victoria Ruan. Editors: Nerys Avery, Ken McCallum
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