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Number of unemployed people in urban China 2019

In 2019, approximately 9.45 million people in urban areas of China had been registered as unemployed. That was a slight decrease in the number of unemployed people from 9.74 million in the previous year.

Employment and labor force in China

According to the graph at hand, absolute unemployment in urban China has gradually risen over the past decade. Although this increase suggests rising unemployment levels, a glance at the unemployment rate in China shows that official national unemployment levels for urban areas have remained stable at around four percent in recent years and even saw a slight decline from around 4.1 percent in 2014 to 3.8 percent in 2018. Instead, the reason for rising urban unemployment numbers is to be found in the strong increase of total employment figures in urban areas. The number of people employed in urban China has increased from around 321 million in 2008 to 434 million in 2018, while rural employment figures diminished at the same time. The national labor force in China only increased by roughly 20 million since 2008 to 775 million people in 2018.

Regional disparities in unemployment

For several decades, unemployment figures in undeveloped western and central regions of China had been higher than those of the developing coastal provinces. This trend has been changing in recent years, as the economic development in many inner regions of China has caught up and labor intensive industries have been moved from the increasingly expensive coastal regions to cheaper locations in inner provinces. This trend has been supported by government efforts to develop the formerly underdeveloped western and central regions. Nevertheless, regional disparities remain, and overall economic conditions are still far from being equal. Nowadays, regional urban unemployment rates in the former center of the Chinese steel and heavy industries in northeastern China are the highest in national comparison, while unemployment in the southern coastal provinces Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan is comparatively low. Interestingly, the official unemployment rate of Beijing was by far the lowest in China, while that of Shanghai was much higher.

Number of unemployed people in urban China from 2009 to 2019

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Release date

June 2020



Survey time period

2009 to 2019

Supplementary notes

According to the source, the data refer to urban unemployment only.

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Statistics on "Employment in China"

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