Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics show that the country’s employment headache only heightened in November.

In the figures released on Thursday, December 15, the urban unemployment rate nationwide climbed 2% to 5.7% last month. According to Bloomberg, it is the highest jobless rate since May, when Shanghai was under lockdown. Across China’s 31 largest cities, the rate rose 0.7% in the month prior to 6.7% in November, marginally less than May’s 6.9% peak.

November also saw more migrant workers becoming unemployed, with the rates soaring from 0.5% month-on-month to 6.0%. 

The metric for youngsters aged 16 to 24-year-old continued to be substantially greater than the national figure, at 17.1%. This means one-sixth of young Chinese faced unemployment last month. 

This paints a bleak picture of China’s labor market, considering that the country is expected to have 11.58 million new graduates from universities and colleges entering the stream next year. This is a 0.82 million rise from 2022.

The stress has prompted more willingness in university graduates to compete for civil service jobs, once considered the least favorable option. According to Caixin.com, nearly 70% of the 3,669 Tsinghua University graduates in Beijing who signed employment contracts in 2021 found work in the public sector.

This year, young people have already experienced difficulty finding employment due to a severe downturn in the economy brought on by the zero-COVID policy and the real estate crisis. The country is currently battling coronavirus outbreaks now as it has loosened curbs. Bloomberg estimated that companies would have to scramble with labor shortages in the coming months as more employees would have to stay home because of COVID infections.

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