China suspends youth unemployment data after record high

Job seekers and recruiters at a job fair in Beijing, China.

China has stopped releasing youth unemployment figures, which were seen by some as a key indication of the country’s slowdown.

The decision is due to changes in the world’s second largest economy and its society, a government spokesman said.

In June, China’s jobless rate for 16 to 24 year olds in urban areas hit a record high of more than 20%.

The country’s central bank also cut the cost of borrowing on Tuesday in an attempt to help boost growth.

Official figures published on Tuesday showed China’s overall unemployment rate had risen to 5.3% in July.

At the same time the government said it would temporarily suspend publishing youth joblessness data but gave no timeline for the suspension.

A spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics said the method of calculating unemployment among young people needed to be reconsidered.

“The economy and society are constantly developing and changing. Statistical work needs continuous improvement”, Fu Linghui told a news conference in Beijing.

Mr Fu hinted that the growth in the number of students between 16 and 24 years of age had affected unemployment figures, but China has never counted those in education as unemployed.

China started publishing youth unemployment figures in 2018. However, it does not currently release data on the employment status of young people in rural areas.

The suspension of publishing youth unemployment figures immediately started trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

One user said: “Covering your mouth and closing your eyes, can that really solve problems? With flexible employment, slow employment, and independent employment, working for just one hour means you’re not unemployed. Don’t take the statistics from the Bureau of Statistics seriously.”

“As long as I don’t announce it, then nobody is unemployed,” another post said.

The announcement came as the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery is slowing.

In the latest move by authorities to boost growth the People’s Bank of China on Tuesday unexpectedly cut key interest rates for the second time in three months.

Last week, China recently reported a sharp fall in exports while the economy slipped into deflation where prices fall.

“There is a real risk of the economy slipping into a recession unless policy support is ramped up soon,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a note to investors.

Another issue causing major concerns about China’s economy is its crisis-hit property market.

On Monday, China’s largest private real estate developer Country Garden warned that it could lose up to $7.6bn (£6bn) for the first six months of the year.

China’s real estate industry was rocked when new rules to control the amount major developers could borrow were introduced in 2020.

The following year, Chinese property giant Evergrande defaulted on its massive debts and last month revealed a total loss of 581.9bn yuan ($81.1bn; £62bn) for the last two years.

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