- Data released Monday indicated roughly 5 million people in China lost their jobs amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus in January and February.
- The jump in unemployment was just one of several data points released Monday that showed how severely the virus has hit growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
- Bruce Pang, head of macro and strategy research at China Renaissance, expects employment will remain Chinese authorities’ priority, even if there’s a hit to the 2020 GDP growth target.
BEIJING — Roughly 5 million people in China lost their jobs amid the outbreak of the new coronavirus in the first two months of this year, according to data published Monday.
China’s official, but highly doubted, urban unemployment rate jumped in February to 6.2%, its highest on record, the National Bureau of Statistics said. That’s up from 5.3% in January and 5.2% in December.
“It’s pretty meaningful, as over 5 million more workers lost (a) job in the past two months,” Larry Hu, chief China economist at Macquarie, said in an email.
As of the end of last year, 442.47 million people were employed in urban areas, government data show, indicating that at least 4.67 million people have since lost their jobs, based on official figures.
China’s unemployment data have been highly doubted, even after the country changed its methodology from worker claims to a survey in 2018 in an effort to capture more of the job losses. The urban unemployment rate has hovered near 4% to 5% for the last 20 years.
That makes a jump to 6.2% particularly notable. Mao Shengyong, a spokesperson for the National Bureau of Statistics, emphasized during a press conference Monday that the unemployment rate will likely fall in the second half of the year as businesses resume work.
More job losses expected
More than half of the country extended a Lunar New Year holiday shutdown by at least a week in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. The coronavirus has killed more than 3,200 people in China and has since hit more than 140 countries worldwide in a global pandemic. Fears of the impact on global growth have sent markets reeling.