China’s job market faces new pressure as trade war with US drags on

Finance


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There are signs that ongoing trade tensions are putting some pressure on China‘s job market — despite Beijing’s efforts to emphasize the negative impact of tariffs on the U.S.

According to China’s top economic planning body, some local companies are cutting back on their efforts to hire new university graduates.

“Due to (the) impact from the continued increase of China-U.S. economic trade frictions and other uncertainties, recruitment demand for university graduates is tightening in internet, finance and other industries,” according to a statement to CNBC from a spokesperson for the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

“Some companies have postponed their campus recruiting (efforts), among which some companies may have reduced or suspended recruitment,” said the Chinese-language statement, according to CNBC’s translation.

The statement also said that the overall employment situation for the class of 2019 is “relatively stable” and that the overall number of jobs available is “sufficient.”

The world’s two largest economies have been locked in a trade dispute for more than a year. Each country has applied tariffs to billions of dollars’ worth of goods imported from the other.

For China, the tariffs and uncertainty are piling pressure on an economy that’s starting to see slower growth, after rapid expansion not so long ago. At the annual National People’s Congress in March — a closely watched, but largely ceremonial meeting — Premier Li Keqiang said the country must be prepared for a “tough struggle.” He named employment as the country’s priority and said that at least 11 million urban jobs will be created this year.

There may be slighter pay or less workload, but we need ensure that no workers are laid off.

Liang Ming

director of the Institute of International Trade under the Ministry of Commerce

In official remarks, Beijing has tended to emphasize the negative impact of the trade tensions on the U.S. over China.

Economists from the International Monetary Fund and other Europe or U.S.-based organizations have also found American businesses are bearing the burden of the higher tariffs right now.

Chinese imports of goods from the U.S. fell 31.8% to $28.5 billion in the first quarter, while U.S. imports from China fell 13.9% in the first quarter to $106 billion, according to Liang Ming, director of the Institute of International Trade under the Ministry of Commerce.

In the first quarter, Chinese imports from the U.S. that were most affected by the trade tensions were yellow soybeans, petroleum oils, and aircraft, according to Liang’s research. For the same time period, top American imports from China that were most affected were some types of printed circuit boards, routers and modems, the report showed.

‘Big impact’ on jobs

However, the Chinese economy is not immune to trade tensions either.

Employment is “one area that may suffer some big impact” as companies try to avoid tariffs by moving a specific aspect of production out of China, Liang said at a June 13 press event.

“That’s why we are asking local governments to work out and to find out the detailed information at factories, so the way to cope with such a situation is to reduce production, but not lay off staff,” Liang said in Mandarin, according to an official English translation. “There may be slighter pay or less workload, but we need ensure that no workers are laid off.”

China’s official unemployment rate remains low — at 5% in April and May.

However, for last year’s college graduates, the percentage that didn’t find work was higher, given an employment rate of 91.5%, Xinhua said in a Sunday report, citing third-party research firm MyCOS. A record 8.34 million people are expected to graduate from China’s universities this year — up from 8.2 million last year, according to state news agency Xinhua.

On Monday, state agency NDRC laid out four ways that it’s trying to keep employment stable. They include:

  • promoting entrepreneurship
  • increasing support for pensions, kindergarten, household management and other community and family services
  • plans to speed up implementation of a vocational skills program
  • improve monitoring of the employment situation in order to respond more quickly to changes

The Ministry of Education also said in late November that graduates from the class of 2019 will face great challenges in finding jobs or starting their own businesses, especially as uncertainties and unstable factors are increasing.

— CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.



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