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China’s Youth Unemployment Hits Record High: 1 in 5 People Aged 16-24 Out of Work

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China’s youth jobless rate edged up to a fresh record in May as the economy’s recovery slowed, adding to challenges for policymakers as new graduates join the workforce.

The unemployment rate among those aged between 16 and 24 reached 20.8%, up from 20.4% in April, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday. That’s four times the overall surveyed jobless rate, which was unchanged at 5.2%.

Read More: China’s Aging Population Is a Major Concern. But Its Youth May Be an Even Bigger Problem

Youth unemployment has stayed elevated since early 2022 as Covid disruptions and a property slump added to already existing structural problems in the labor market. Many companies are reluctant to hire in the face of a lackluster recovery, while cash-strapped local governments are also trying to reduce costs. Summer is usually when the jobless rate climbs as tens of millions of graduates flood the market.

High youth joblessness has weighed on consumer confidence, as households have chosen to repay their debt early to reduce risks. Authorities have rolled out measures including subsidies to help companies expand hiring. People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang pledged earlier this month to promote full employment and step up financing to industries that are key to stabilizing employment, such as the services sector.

—With assistance from Jill Disis.

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