China State Planner Warns Economic Pressure Will Hit Job Market

January 22, 2019 Updated: January 22, 2019

BEIJING—Downward pressure on the economy will impact China’s job market, the state planner warned on Jan. 22, a day after data showed gross domestic product grew at its slowest since 1990.

The overall job market is stable, although it faces “new changes,” said Meng Wei, spokeswoman at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Exports and imports unexpectedly shrank last month, while falling factory orders point to a further drop in activity in coming months and more job shedding.

China’s survey-based jobless rate rose to 4.9 percent at the end of December from 4.8 percent a month earlier, according to the official data released on Monday.

The data also showed China’s overall economy further cooled in the fourth quarter, dragging 2018 growth to the lowest in nearly three decades.

Some factories in Guangdong Province—China’s export hub—have shut earlier than usual ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday as new business ebbs.

“From the viewpoint of ‘changes’, the external environment is complex and austere,” Meng said.

“Within the changes, there is something to worry about, and there is downward pressure on the economy. To a certain extent, the pressure will be passed onto jobs,” she said.

Coupled with the high supply of fresh labor, such as this year’s record batch of college graduates of 8.34 million, the pressure on employment will not diminish, Meng said.

China will prioritize graduates and migrant workers in its efforts to stabilize the job market, Meng told reporters.

In response to a question on jobs in the internet sector, Meng said new hires remained stable, and no massive layoffs were seen for now.

China’s technology sector is facing challenges on a number of fronts, including tightening government regulations and the country’s trade spat with the United States.

The Chinese regime has recently tweaked its priorities to focus more on infrastructure and exports, as well as attracting foreign investment.

Support will also be given to cities that are encouraging industrial growth and upgrading their manufacturing sector.

China will encourage foreign firms to invest in its manufacturing sector, Meng said.

Last year, China approved 189 fixed asset investment projects, including projects in the high-tech, energy, transportation and water conservation sectors, the state planner said on Tuesday.

China added 2,550 miles of high-speed railway track and six civilian transport airports in 2018, Meng told reporters.

Meng also said China had completed its targeted overcapacity cuts for coal and steel under the government’s current five-year development plan, which ends in 2020.

China’s job market in 2018 was already doing poorly. Overall employment dropped by about 2.8 million people in the 12 months ending in November 2018, CNBC reported, citing a Jan. 9 survey of 374,000 large industrial firms conducted by Hong Kong financial services company Gavekal Dragonomics.

In an attempt to address the problem, 20 Chinese provinces have introduced measures to boost employment, in response to a call by China’s cabinet-like State Council in December 2018 to “prioritize stable employment and job creation.”

Among the measures is to provide the unemployed with government-subsidized training in vocational skills, according to a Jan. 7 article by China’s state-run newspaper Global Times.

Many Chinese media have predicted that the 2019 job market will be the “worst-ever employment season,” according to the Global Times.

By Stella Qiu & Ryan Woo. Epoch Times writer Frank Fang contributed to this report.

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